Public schools around the United States have implemented mandatory vaccination requirements for students who wish to enroll in their in-person classes. In some states, one of the ways around these requirements is through homeschooling, while in others vaccines are required across the board.
Whether a homeschooled child must be vaccinated varies throughout the United States and depends on where you live. In the majority of the fifty states in the US, homeschooled children do not legally have to receive a vaccine, and if they are required, other exemptions may apply.
While the laws surrounding mandatory vaccinations for children are ever-evolving, it is important to understand your current rights and legal responsibilities when deciding whether or not a homeschooled child should receive a vaccine. Continue reading for a detailed examination of what makes a homeschooler exempt from receiving a vaccine.
Do Homeschoolers Need to Be Vaccinated, Legally?
In many states, public school students are legally required to provide proof of vaccination upon enrolling. Some families can claim an exemption depending on their state, and still have their children attend a public school without needing to require a vaccine.
For homeschoolers, the rules are slightly different and are still determined state-by-state. There are four main options that a state can fall under for homeschooler vaccination requirements:
- Homeschooled students must be vaccinated and submit proof to an authority. (MN, ND, PA, TN)
- Homeschooled students must be vaccinated, keep their vaccination documents and records, but do not have to submit proof to an authority except upon direct request. (CO, IL, IN, KS, KY, MT, NM, NC, TX, VA, WY)
- Homeschooled students must be vaccinated but do not need to keep records and do not have to submit documents to any authority even upon request. (AK, FL, IA, LA, ME, MD, MI, NE, WA)
- Homeschooled students do not need to be vaccinated. (AL, AZ, AR, CA, CT, DE, GA, HI, ID, MA, MI, MO, NV, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, OR, RI, SC, SD, UT, VT, WV, WI)
Notice that while California has strict exemption laws, homeschoolers do not legally need to receive any vaccinations, whereas in Colorado, a state which allows a wider variety of personal exemptions, homeschoolers must receive vaccinations but parents do not need to provide proof unless directly asked.
Regardless of whether or not a child is being homeschooled, there are legal exemptions that any family can claim to refuse vaccinations, though this is handled on a state by state basis. The following exemptions are as follows:
As of now, California, West Virginia, and Mississippi are the only states that will only grant an exemption on medical reasons alone. The other forty-seven states accept two or more reasons for a vaccine exemption based on the three listed above, and all others accept exemptions on the basis of religious beliefs.
Vaccines are often a controversial topic throughout the United States. The complicated dynamic that exists between these exemptions and immunization requirements is created from an attempt to balance personal bodily autonomy and beliefs, while also protecting those who do not want exposure to disease.
How to Receive a Vaccine Exemption for your Homeschooler
If you live in a state that requires your homeschooler to receive mandatory vaccinations and you feel your only option is to file for an exemption, you can try one of the following methods:
- Write a letter to your state authorities explaining why you are applying for an exemption.
- Find a health department official nearest you, gain their approval, and obtain a signature.
It is best to talk to a health official to learn more about why vaccines have been deemed mandatory by the state before attempting to receive an exemption. You may also need to renew your exemption or reapply each year.
The difficulty in obtaining an exemption will vary by state. While there are three exemption categories, each state (if it permits one or all three reasons for an exemption) will have different ways of processing the request.
Reasons Why Homeschoolers Should Receive Vaccines
Vaccines are a remarkable invention that began in the late eighteenth century and which have only become safer and more effective over the centuries. They have saved countless lives and continue to spare the majority of the world’s population from some of the deadliest diseases.
But since homeschoolers have far less exposure to other students, you may wonder why some states have made it mandatory for them to receive vaccinations at all. The main reasons why health officials urge everyone to get vaccinated apply to all humans, regardless of age or social network. Some of the main reasons are as follows:
- Vaccines are safe
- Vaccines help to maintain overall health
- Everyone is at risk from vaccine-preventable diseases
Perhaps you only need to hear whether or not your homeschooler legally needs to receive a vaccine, but read on for a more in-depth explanation of the argument on why homeschoolers need to be vaccinated if and when possible.
Homeschoolers Can Expose Others to Harmful Diseases
The government and health officials within the United States want to protect the livelihoods of as many individuals as possible, and that includes using the latest technology to prevent detrimental outbreaks of disease.
States put mandatory vaccination requirements in place to protect the health of the general public. Since schools are a place where hundreds, and sometimes thousands of students come together in classrooms, ensuring that they can do so in a healthy environment also maintains all childrens’ rights to an equal and quality education.
While homeschoolers do not learn in a classroom setting, they still interact with the general population and with other children who attend public schools in stores, churches, parks, and other popular venues. The more children who are vaccinated, the smaller the likelihood of an outbreak, such as the measles outbreak which swelled in 2019, a disease that was once the leading killer of children.
Getting your homeschooler vaccinated will help to keep the rest of the population safe, especially those who cannot receive a vaccine based on a medical exemption.
Homeschoolers Can Contract Deadly and Preventable Diseases
Of course, the reasoning behind why state and federal health officials urge vaccinations is not just because they wish to prevent deadly outbreaks, they also care about the health and well-being of the family.
No one wants to witness someone contract a potentially fatal or life-altering disease that could have been prevented by a vaccine. Just as no one wants to see someone who should have filed for a medical exemption receive a vaccine and experience deadly side-effects. The goal is to limit the greatest amount of harm possible.
While there are a number of cases where those who received vaccines experienced adverse reactions, many extraordinary claims are unfounded. Plus, the odds are in our favor. Getting your homeschooled children vaccinated keeps them protected from diseases that are proven to be fatal.
Even in states with the strictest immunization requirements or the fewest options for exemption, if you do not want your homeschooled children to be vaccinated you will most likely be able to get out of the state requirements, though typically not without some effort.
Make sure to read up on your state’s specific laws and requirements regarding vaccines, as well as the exemptions they offer. It is highly recommended that you reach out to a local health official to gain insight and assistance in your decisions regarding vaccinations for your homeschooler.
*note: This article was compiled without regard to COVID-19. Rules regarding COVID-19 may differ. As always, check with your own state to be up-to-date on your state’s requirements and rules.