The company will become the third to undergo new, stricter standards before passengers can travel
In what seems like a logical next step in the battle against vaccine exemptions, Disney Cruise Line is set to require all customers with children under 5 years old to be fully vaccinated before they can travel on a ship.
In an email to owners of the House of Blues in New Orleans last weekend, Disney Cruise Line’s VP of Family Services, Elizabeth Sweet said the new policy will “limit those who may claim an exemption for medical, religious or philosophical reasons while ensuring that guests traveling on all classes of cruise ships are protected from disease, with a vaccination requirement that has long been part of our training and the policy of every cruise line.”
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The cruiseship announced the policy change in November after the company signed a memorandum of understanding with the CDC. However, the company had already been issuing a number of health-related advisories related to its cruise line, including mandatory anti-theft measures.
Some might say the new policy is a good start, but the company is far from the first to attempt to rein in the mandate. In 2015, Carnival Cruise Lines reversed their current policy of allowing children younger than 6 to avoid being vaccinated.
“Customers who have a ‘personal belief’ that vaccinations are not right for their children or family need to understand that it is not responsible for Carnival to force them to take these medications,” Carnival CEO Arnold Donald said in a statement that year. “We know parents are choosing to not vaccinate their children because of misinformation or for other reasons that are not backed up by sound science.”
Further down the line, Disney is creating a sea of shifting red tape.
In 2016, United Airlines filed a petition with the FDA requesting a waiver allowing customers traveling to Disney World to be vaccinated in a separate city and then bring their vaccine to the airport and on board.
American Airlines echoed this move and filed its own voluntary waivers for Disney World and Universal Studios at Disney’s request. In 2015, Disney was fined $200,000 for knowingly allowing a woman to board a ship in order to get vaccinated, as the company did not have a policy in place to prevent passengers from being the subject of a subpoena from the FDA.
Mary Skipper of the Pew Research Center told the Guardian she would be surprised if Disney kept this pressure to itself. “In the last two years there have been four or five food industry companies and cruise line companies asking for waivers to provide parents with the option of exempting their children from vaccinations. Whether companies and cruise lines will expand their response to that and actually provide refills is unclear,” Skipper said.
The cruise industry is also seeing increased resistance in trying to mitigate the trend of parents opting their children out of vaccinations on safety grounds.
In October, Passport Inc (parent company of Anthem Kids) backed off their program which attempted to erase on consumer websites from view all of a child’s immunizations with their online parents’ resource, “Where My Kids Have Been.”
“On the instruction of our board, our search engines policy excludes publically available information that might cause undue concern to customers. The search results on our site are educational about why a child might need vaccinations and is the most reliable and accurate source for that information,” the company said.
We are hoping to make “Where My Kids Have Been” the most informative, complete and comprehensive resource available to parents looking for information on immunizations.
The Marriott, Smith Travel, and Marriott Vacation Club brands are all suffering from a vaccination boycott following a statement made in a conference with the Texas Medical Association. In it, Nicholas Towey of Marriott’s Global Services Group stated that there were only about 1% of hotels catering to “legitimate medical needs” and that Marriott would not help more than 10% of customers.
“It’s a sad reminder that we still live in an age where hotels such as these would be seen as irresponsible and shortsighted enough to embrace a policy like this when there are other ways to help medical needs travelers without burdening non-medical needs travelers,” said Gina Kovick, the founder of Safe Kids USA, Inc.