Tony Yang at Health Affairs

Dr. Tony Yang

In 2017, there have already been more measles cases in Minnesota than in all of the United States in 2016. The 2015 measles outbreak in California spread to at least seven other states. In these states are areas where clusters exist where families use nonmedical exemptions to opt out of vaccinations. Dr. Tony Yang is a George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services researcher whose work in health policy and law examined the contributions of these exemptions to disease outbreaks. Dr. Yang’s work is helping to provide evidence-based information about current laws and public health implications. His recent article provided a toolbox for legislatures to understand the policy options and potential impacts of allowing nonmedical exemptions for vaccination requirements.


The College hosted a webinar on the subject of measles featuring Dr. Kathryn Jacobsen (Global and Community Health), Dr. Tony Yang (Health Administration and Policy), and Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu (Fairfax County Health Department), moderated by Dr. PJ Maddox (Health Administration and Policy).  The webinar video is below.  Speaker presentations and bios are on the Event Webpage.

Research Spotlights

Should the U.S. Restrict Welfare Benefits for Unvaccinated Children? Dr. Tony Yang examined Australian vaccine legislation and its relevance, legality, and ethics for a similar program in the United States. Read more.

Peer-Reviewed Articles

Yang, YT, Studdert DM. Linking Immunization Status and Eligibility for Welfare and Benefits Payments: The Australian “No Jab, No Pay” Legislation. Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). 2017;317(8):803-804. DOI:10.1001/jama.2017.0123.

Delamater PL, Leslie TF, Yang YT. California Senate Bill 277's Grandfather Clause and Nonmedical Vaccine Exemptions in California, 2015-2022. JAMA Pediatr. 2016;170(6):619-620. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.4856.

Yang YT, Silverman RD. Social Distancing and the Unvaccinated. New England Journal of Medicine 2015 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1501198

Yang YT, Silverman RD. Legislative Prescriptions for Controlling Non-medical Vaccine Exemptions. Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) 2015;313(3):247-248.

Orenstein DG, Yang YT. From Beginning to End: The Importance of Evidence-Based Policymaking in Vaccination Mandates. Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics 2015; 43: 99–102. DOI:10.1111/jlme.12228.

Yang YT, Debold V. A Longitudinal Analysis of the Effect of Non-medical Exemption Law and Vaccine Uptake on Vaccine-Targeted Disease Rates. American Journal of Public Health 2014;104(2):371-377.

Viewpoints & Commentary

Yang YT, Painter JE, Meier BM. Coordinated regulatory efforts needed to strengthen travel related immunization requirements against importation of infectious diseases. Vaccine 2016 Jul 25;34(34):3921-2. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2016.06.047

Yang YT, Bhoobun S, Itani T, Jacobsen K. Europe Should Consider Mandatory Measles Immunization for School Entry. J Ped Infect Dis (2016) doi: 10.1093/jpids/piw003

Yang, YT., Barraza, L., Weidenaar, K. (2015). Measles Outbreak as a Catalyst for Stricter Vaccine Exemption Legislation. The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Yang, YT. (2015). Why Mississippi Hasn’t had Measles in over Two Decades. The Conversation.

Yang, YT. (2013). Non-Medical Exemptions: Weighing Public Health and Individual Rights. Harvard Law.

For Interviews 

Dr. Yang is available for interviews. Please contact Danielle Hawkins via email or call 703-993-1931. Journalists on deadline, or after hours, are advised to contact the Community Engagement office by email rather than office phone. Please put ON DEADLINE in the subject of the email, and be as specific as possible with your request.

Media's Response

Child next to tree

California's Rich, White Unvaccinated Kindergartners

The percentage of kindergartners with state-issued personal belief exemptions doubled from 2007 to 2013, from 1.54% to 3.06%. That's about 17,000 children, out of more than half a million, opting out. Read more.

Child in classroom

Rich, White and Refusing Vaccinations

In some suburban areas, rates of exemption were near 50 percent, and more than a quarter of California’s schools have measles immunization rates below the 92 to 94 percent required for herd immunity, the level of vaccination necessary to protect people who are not immune. Read more.

Syringe vaccine

Social Distancing and the Unvaccinated

If a state allows parents to obtain religious exemptions from vaccination requirements for school entry, can it temporarily exclude unvaccinated children from school during an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable illness without violating the family's constitutional rights? Read more.

Capitol Building

Measles: How legislators can end 'personal belief' waivers on vaccination

...[T]he crisis may spur state lawmakers to reverse the trend expanding exemptions from mandatory childhood immunizations. Read more.

Injecting chemicals

Measles outbreak raises question of vaccine exemptions

The Disneyland measles raising questions about state laws that allow unvaccinated children to attend school and stoking heated arguments about vaccination. Read more.


Vaccine exemption bills often introduced but rarely passed

Legislation to change whether parents may refuse school vaccinations for their children appears to be common in some states, according to a new analysis. However, those bills are rarely passed into law. Read more.

Nurse preparing injection

Making a case for stricter exemptions for childhood vaccinations

The increasing number of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children for personal or religious reasons may contribute to outbreaks of measle.... Read more.

Some photos courtesy Creative Services, GMU.