Issues Library—Parental Rights


Are Vaccinations and Immunizations for Schoolchildren Mandatory?

Yes and no. The laws are written to mandate immunizations for all children, but almost all states allow parents to apply for an exemption on one of three grounds: religious, philosophical, and medical. Religious exemptions are available in 48 states. To qualify for this exemption, parents must prove a deeply held objection to vaccinations based on religious beliefs, and in some states, the religious beliefs must also be held by the parents’ church denomination. Philosophical or conscientious exemptions are available in a handful of states and can be obtained if the parent believes the risks of vaccination outweigh the benefits. Finally, a medical exemption can be obtained if the child has a medical condition that makes vaccination a health risk. Medical exemptions are difficult to obtain, and the danger must be verified by a physician.

Only Mississippi and West Virginia do not allow religious or philosophical exemptions. Mississippi does, however, allow an automatic exemption for homeschool students.

How Do Immunizations Apply to Homeschoolers?

Many homeschool parents may feel that it is unnecessary for their children to be vaccinated if those children will not be in a traditional school setting where they would be exposed to a variety of germs. Some parents may also object to vaccinations because of the associated risks or on religious grounds. Whatever the objections, in most cases, homeschoolers, like parents of public and private school students, must file the appropriate objection for their state to exempt their children from vaccination requirements.

HSLDA supports the parental right to choose whether to immunize and works to ensure that parents retain the liberty to exempt their children from mandatory exemptions.

 Related HSLDA Articles

Issue Analysis: Immunization—A Parent’s Choice
September 13, 2007


Review of the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act
December 20, 2001
 Helpful Information from Outside Sources

List of each State’s Exemption Requirements for Specific Vaccines

The Center for Disease Control Statistics on the Number of School-Age Children Vaccinated

List of Exemption Allowances by State
March 2011

Institute for Vaccine Safety
November 12, 2009

National Network for Immunization Information
November 12, 2009

Dr. Wile on Vaccines
November 12, 2009

National Vaccine Information Center
November 12, 2009