Medical Students Tackle Vaccination Reform

Neil Bhavsar; Dominic Roskoski; Aakash Shah; Archana Babu; Maggie Montovano; Thomas Kardashian-Sieger; Jesse Veisblatt; Steven Skula; Anushka Sindkar; Annie Yang


June 21, 2018

Editor's Note: Students from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School recently submitted a policy proposal centered on reforming vaccination practices to the New Jersey legislature (bills A-3818 and S-2173). The statements and video included here represent their views and explain their advocacy as part of their campaign to increase awareness about the bill. More information is available here.

Over the past few years, an increasing number of cases of measles have been observed despite the fact that measles was eradicated in the United States in the early 2000s. These cases were preventable, and only served to cause undue misery to affected families. Although mandatory vaccination raises concerns for some, a change is needed.

As medical students, we believe in the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship and believe strongly in patient autonomy. However, this is an issue that supersedes the needs and beliefs of an individual, as all our lives are at risk — especially when this issue may not be about religious beliefs at all. Currently, over 99.5% of all religions in New Jersey comply with vaccination requirements. The 0.05% (20,000 New Jersey residents) who practice faiths that do not allow for vaccines are somehow overrepresented in data collected on religious vaccine exemptions in New Jersey schools. Proposals are now available to make the process of vaccine exemptions efficient, fairer, and more accountable — all while increasing personal autonomy and understanding through discourse.

Two bills are currently before the New Jersey legislature that work toward a solution. They are intended to allow for a conversation. While respecting the autonomy of patients, those not wanting their child vaccinated must still understand the consequences of noncompliance. A moderate measure such as this one is intended to help people understand the importance of vaccination to protect the young, elderly, and immunocompromised individuals in our communities.

These are some testimonials about why this issue in particular, and advocacy in general, is important for medical students:

Neil Bhavsar

Having entered medical school, marrying multiple passions into becoming a physician who does his best for his patients and his community has been challenging. Making sure that I'm on top of my classwork is a priority; however, I don't want my passions to stagnate restlessly in the recesses of my mind. Having the opportunity to work on policy reform in the pursuit of better health outcomes is something that I have always wanted to do, and having legislation on the floor that will increase dialogue between physicians and patients will allow for greater understanding of the patient perspective in medicine.