School Vaccinations and Exemptions: What Parents Need to Know - Law and Daily Life
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School Vaccinations and Exemptions: What Parents Need to Know

With school having already started in some parts of the country and starting soon in others, many parents of school-aged children may be wondering: Are my kids required to get vaccinated? And if so, are there any possible exemptions?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children be vaccinated for a number of different illnesses. But vaccine requirements for children attending school are set individually by each state.

How can you find out which vaccines may be required in your state?

State Vaccination Requirements

At least some level of vaccination is required for school children in every state and the District of Columbia. Although enforcement varies, in most cases a child who can't submit proof that he or she has received the required vaccinations or claimed a valid exemption may not be able to attend school.

To give parents in each state a better idea of the required vaccines and allowed exemptions in each state, the CDC has provided a free, searchable database of state-, grade-, and vaccine-specific requirements on its website.

For example, using the database, a California middle-school student is required to have three doses of Hepatitis B vaccine by 7th grade, as well as two doses of measles-containing vaccine. These are in addition to vaccinations required for previous grade levels.

Possible Exemptions

Depending on the laws of your state, you may be granted an exemption from certain vaccines for one of the following reasons:

  • A medical exemption. If a child is determined by a physician to be allergic to a vaccine ingredient or to have other medical reasons which may make taking the vaccine harmful, then that child may be exempt from the requirement.
  • Personal belief or religious exemption. Most states also recognize exemptions for those whose religious or personal beliefs prohibit vaccinations.
  • A philosophical exemption. Significantly fewer states also allow parents who are philosophically opposed to vaccinations to claim exemptions for their children.

The CDC database contains information for exemptions in each state, but also recommends that parents visit their state's health department website for updated and state-specific exemption information.

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