All 50 states legally require children to be vaccinated if they are entering daycare, preschool, or the school system. However, exemptions are available for families who have religious, philosophical, or medical reasons not to vaccinate their children. Not all states offer all three types of exemptions and exemptions may be challenged by the state in certain situations. The reason vaccines are legally required, unless an exemption is received, is because it keeps disease at bay. Something called herd immunity is achieved when the majority of individuals in a specific area are vaccinated against a particular illness. When most people are vaccinated they are able to protect those who are unable to be vaccinated because of illness, age, or other reasons. One problem that occurs when too many people go unvaccinated is the herd immunity is threatened. Then, this leaves room for illness to spread. Because of this states do not give out exemptions to just anyone. A valid reason that fits one of the exemption reasons must be provided before an exemption is given.
Medical exemptions are always approved as long as a doctor’s note is provided explaining the medical condition the child has and why vaccination would exacerbate the condition. Doctors will only provide this note if the child truly does have a medical condition that would be worsened or cause additional side effects in the child. All states offer this type of exemption for vaccinations.
Philosophical exemptions are allowed in 20 states. This exemption is given to children whose parents believe strongly that vaccines are not the right thing for their child. These are not religious beliefs, but rather beliefs built on evidence, research, and other information that vaccines could be harmful to their child or are not as effective as they claim to be.
Religious exemptions are available in 48 of the 50 states. This exemption is for families who can prove that their religious beliefs do not allow their children to be vaccinated. For many families, this is the only option they have if their child does not fit in the medical exemption field.
You will not go to jail or receive a ticket if you do not have your child vaccinated. However, if you plan on sending your child to school then you will have to provide either a vaccination record or an exemption from the state you live in. If you cannot provide either of these then your only option is to home school your children.