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Can schools ban children for not being up-to-date on vaccines? What you need to know.
It’s a touchy topic among parents, schools, and doctors. But when it comes to childcare and your state’s school system, there’s not much room for debate.
All 50 states have laws requiring children to receive specific vaccinations to attend school (except for those with a medical exemption), says Pew Research Center.
But unless you live in California, Mississippi, or West Virginia, as a parent with legitimate concerns, you can choose not to vaccinate your children due to medical, religious, or philosophical reasons (here’s a handy graph from the National Conference of State Legislatures that shows what exemptions are available state-by-state).
To enroll your child in public (and most private) schools, every state and DC require the following vaccinations: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis; polio, measles, and rubella. Many states require more vaccines as children get older, but all other immunization laws vary from state to state.
What exactly are vaccines?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “a vaccine is a biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease.” The immunization typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism and is usually made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe. They protect you from the diseases that attacked your parents and grandparents’ generations, like measles, mumps, and whooping cough.
The WHO says that all licensed vaccines are safe and undergo rigorous testing across multiple phases of trials before it’s approved for use and is regularly reassessed once it’s on the market. Contrary to many people’s belief, the WHO states “it’s far more likely to be seriously injured by a vaccine-preventable disease than by a vaccine.”
In 1998, a study was released that raised a possible link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, which was later found to be seriously flawed and fraudulent. But, it set off alarms for parents across the country, and many stopped immunizing their children.
Why is this such a big deal?
Diseases are becoming rare due to vaccinations, and when a large enough portion of the population is immune to an infectious disease, the chance of the disease spreading from person to person is highly unlikely (this is referred to as herd or community immunity).
This community immunity protects everyone, especially those who can’t be vaccinated for certain diseases due to medical complications or serious allergies (although only about 2 percent of children actually qualify for this category).
Who qualifies for a vaccine exemption in school?
Depending on your state, there are three ways to get an exemption:
1. Medical exemptions can be due to severe allergies to the vaccine, health conditions that compromise the immune system, or other very rare factors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has compiled guidelines for who is eligible or exempt from receiving common vaccines, from the Adenovirus to Yellow Fever vaccines.
2. Religious exemptions are rare and difficult to obtain. While the requirements for this exemption vary from state to state, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many religions that actively disapprove of vaccines.
3. Philosophical or personal exemptions are for parents who hold conscientious objections to one or more vaccines. Only about half of U.S. states offer this type of exemption, and as with religious exemptions, the requirements vary.
Sinclair Broadcast Group is committed to the health and well-being of our viewers, which is why we initiated Sinclair Cares. Every month we’ll bring you information about the “Cause of the Month,” including topical information, education, awareness, and prevention. August is National Immunization Awareness Month.
This content is for informational purposes only. Please contact your physician for more information and advice.