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Judicial precedent holds that mandatory vaccination is within a state's police power. The precedent rejects the claim that the individual liberty guaranteed by the United States Constitution overcomes the state's judgment that mandatory vaccination is in the interest of the population as a whole.
Plaintiffs brought the present action challenging on constitutional grounds New York State's requirement that all children be vaccinated in order to attend public school. Plaintiffs argued that the statutory vaccination requirement, which was subject to medical and religious exemptions, violated their substantive due process rights, the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Ninth Amendment, and both state and municipal law. On the same grounds, plaintiffs argued that a state regulation permitting school officials to temporarily exclude from school students who were exempted from the vaccination requirement during an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease was unconstitutional. Defendants moved to dismiss or for summary judgment. The district court granted defendants’ motions.
The Court held that the New York's mandatory vaccination requirement, N.Y. Pub. Health Law § 2164(7)(a), did not violate the plaintiff’s substantive due process rights as the vaccinations were within the state's police power, and individual liberties did not overcome its judgment that such vaccination was in the interest of the population as a whole. Moreover, the Court held that the temporary exclusion of non-vaccinated children during a chicken pox outbreak did not violate the Free Exercise Clause as the right to practice religion freely did not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the child to ill health or death.