Exemptions to school immunization requirements: the role of school-level requirements, policies, and procedures

Am J Public Health. 2005 Mar;95(3):436-40. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2004.046201.


Objectives: Our goal was to determine whether school-level variability in implementation of immunization requirements is associated with the likelihood of a child having received an exemption to school immunization requirements.

Methods: We surveyed 1000 school immunization personnel in Colorado, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Washington. We explored associations between school implementation of immunization requirements and the likelihood of a child having an exemption using logistic regression models.

Results: School policies associated with an increased likelihood of children having exemptions included lack of provision of written instructions for completing the school immunization requirement before enrollment, administrative procedures making it easier to claim an exemption, and granting of philosophical exemptions. In the 2 states we surveyed where philosophical exemptions are not authorized (Massachusetts and Missouri), 17.0% and 18.1% of schools reported permitting philosophical exemptions.

Conclusions: Inconsistencies in the interpretation and implementation of school immunization laws contribute to variability in rates of exemptions. School policies should be reviewed to ensure consistency with the intent of state laws.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Colorado
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Decision Making, Organizational
  • Documentation
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Immunization Programs / organization & administration*
  • Logistic Models
  • Massachusetts
  • Missouri
  • Needs Assessment
  • Odds Ratio
  • Organizational Policy
  • Parental Consent* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Parental Consent* / psychology
  • Parental Consent* / statistics & numerical data
  • Parents / education
  • Parents / psychology
  • Philosophy, Medical
  • Private Sector / statistics & numerical data
  • Public Sector / statistics & numerical data
  • School Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Selection Bias
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Refusal* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Treatment Refusal* / statistics & numerical data
  • Vaccination* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Vaccination* / statistics & numerical data
  • Washington