Story at a glance

  • Vaccinations are mandatory to enroll children in public schools throughout the nation.
  • Mandated vaccines become optional for three reasons: Medical, Religious, Philosophical (Personal Conviction).
  • Wisconsin is 1 of 15 states where they allow exemption for personal convictions.
  • If the COVID-19 vaccine becomes mandatory for public school enrollment, it’s important to know your right to refuse.

Types of exemptions

All 50 states in the United States have legislation that requires students to be vaccinated if they wish to enroll in a public school. However, all the states also allow exemptions from receiving mandated vaccines for medical-related reasons. This means that if a child has a pre-existing condition in which they would endure a severe reaction in response to a vaccine, they are not required to receive it.

In 45 states, a student may be exempt from a vaccine for religious reasons (1). While most major religions do not inhibit the use of vaccines, there remains a handful who observes them with a critical eye.

There are only 15 states in this country that allow exemption from vaccines due to personal convictions, and Wisconsin is one of them (2). A personal conviction is ones philosophical and moral beliefs. This meaning, that if a parent/guardian strongly opposes the idea of required vaccinations for their child(ren), they have the right to opt out of what is considered ‘mandatory’ for school enrollment.

The exemption process

As for the exemption process, it is easy. At the beginning of the school year, parents are required to complete a Student Immunization Record on behalf of the Department of Health Services. Towards the end of the document, there is a section dedicated to waivers.

If a student is exempt from a vaccine for health-related reasons, then that portion of the waiver must be signed and dated by a physician.

If a parent/guardian is opting out of vaccination of their child(ren) for religious reasons or because of their personal convictions, they only need to check the box next to their designated option. There are smaller boxes below each section the parents/guardians can mark which mandated vaccines they are not comfortable with, if not all of them.

After completion of the waiver, it must be turned into the school for their records.

An example of Wisconsin’s Student Immunization Record is provided below. The highlighted box is the waiver portion of the document, where there are exemption options.

Student

Your right to choose

Various professionals are predicting that, when it’s available for K-12 ages, the COVID-19 vaccine will be among the list of mandated vaccines that are required for public school enrollment.

If your child cannot be medically exempt from a vaccine, or if your religion would not condone the refusal of vaccination, then taking advantage of your right to choose through your personal convictions is the viable option.

Some states may have differing exemption processes, which is why it’s important to always stay informed of your states’ restrictions and requirements.

Check your state’s allowance for exemptions and their processes here.