by Theresa K. Wrangham, Executive Director
It’s July and many parents and college students are receiving their enrollment packages for the upcoming academic year. Families are also making new daycare decisions, or renewing daycare agreements.
As a parent, I have filled out my share of school enrollment packages and then mentored my adult children so that they could make their own decisions during the college enrollment process and beyond. I’ve both seen and experienced vaccine bullying, and I know first hand the importance of understanding vaccine policies and laws that govern the enrollment process.
This article provides timely vaccine resource information to assist our readers during enrollment and to prevent families and adults from being bullied into making vaccine decisions that do not align with their values and beliefs.
School Vaccine Requirements & Exemptions
NVIC receives numerous inquiries every year about school vaccine requirements and exemptions. School vaccine mandates (requirements) and exemptions vary from state to state because they are determined by each state’s legislature. You will need to understand the laws of your specific state.
State law also dictates how often school vaccine paperwork must be submitted, to whom that paperwork is submitted, as well as how personal vaccine information is shared with a state’s immunization information system (IIS), more commonly known as a vaccine registry.
State vaccine laws can also vary on which settings the law applies to, such as day care, K-12, and college, as well as whether or not the law applies to private schools. In Colorado, for example, the school vaccine law applies to day care facilities and private schools. Understanding how your state’s vaccine laws apply to a specific setting is helpful when completing enrollment documents.
Vaccine Requirements vs. Recommendations
Sadly, one of the stories often shared by parents with NVIC is that they have been incorrectly told by a school official, health care professional, or day care professional that all vaccines on the CDC’s recommended childhood schedule are required for enrollment. Exemption information is often not disclosed in these conversations.
While there are some states and private institutions that do require all federally recommended vaccines as a condition of enrollment, the majority of states require fewer vaccines than the 69 doses recommended by the CDC from birth to age 18. Additionally, most states offer varying degrees of vaccine exemptions. NVIC provides an overview of the difference between a vaccine requirement and a vaccine recommendation that many readers have found helpful as they navigate school and day care enrollment requirements.
Vaccine Registries Track Vaccine Status
As parents make their vaccine choices, it is also wise to consider how privacy rights may be impacted by these decisions.
Many states have a vaccine registry that tracks the vaccination status of school children. More recently, federal policy and state laws are expanding registries to include adult vaccination status.1 Registries are often populated by data gathered from personal electronic medical records2 that health care professionals are incentivized to use by the federal government.3 4
The majority of state vaccine registries are opt-out, meaning you or your child’s vaccine information may already be in your state’s registry, and if you do not want to share that information, you must opt out. Unfortunately, some registries only allow opting out of data-sharing, and your health department may retain your information even after you opt out. NVIC’s state pages link to each state’s registry so that readers can learn about how data is acquired, discover if their personal vaccine information is in the system, and find out what opt-in or opt-out options are available and what information is retained when opting out.
Federal Privacy Rights Trump HIPAA
Often overlooked, or misunderstood, in the enrollment process is the difference between federal privacy rights conferred by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA)5 6 in the educational setting, and the “confidentiality” offered by state vaccine registries that are governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
FERPA protects records gathered by schools, inclusive of vaccine status information.7 Generally speaking, schools are prohibited from sharing personally identifiable information in those records without the specific written consent from the student’s parents or the adult student.8 However, not all schools are subject to FERPA and there are other exceptions that should be reviewed9 to more fully understand the privacy protections conferred by FERPA.
School vaccine information collected by other state agencies, such as the health department, is not protected by FERPA and may instead be subject to HIPAA.10 11 The primary difference between FERPA and HIPAA is that HIPAA allows information to be shared with third parties for public health related activities, without the consent or knowledge of parents and adult students.12 13 Again, we encourage our readers to take the time understand how data-sharing is governed under HIPAA prior to submitting school enrollment information to entities other than a school.
Additionally, NVIC is aware of tactics by state agencies, like those in Colorado, to circumvent FERPA14 through the introduction of legislation to change the law and allow health departments to gather school vaccine information for use in the state's vaccine registry. Abuse of authority and misleading families into giving their vaccine status information to health departments across multiple states has also been reported to NVIC. These types of activities are monitored on NVIC’s free Advocacy Portal to keep our readers informed on what is happening in their state and what actions can be taken to protect this sensitive medical information.
If you believe your FERPA rights have been violated, filing a complaint against a school is relatively easy, and must be filed within six months of the violation by the parent of the student, or the adult student.15
Any abuse of school vaccine laws should be brought to the attention of the agencies involved and copied to your state legislator asking for corrective measures. Please consider sharing this correspondence with NVIC so that we may further our advocacy efforts to protect and defend vaccine informed consent rights in your state.
Vaccine conversations unfolding in classrooms.
More recently, NVIC has received emails from parents concerned about vaccine related curriculum being taught as early as elementary school.
Knowledge is power and talking to your child(ren) about vaccines is important, because the reality is that the vaccine conversation may already be taking place in the classroom, and it may lack balance and information on the ethical principle of informed consent.16 17 18 Mentoring children on how to identify reliable information and resources, and exercising their informed consent rights when making health care decisions will prepare them for the health care decisions they will face as adults.
College enrollment and getting information in advance.
In fact, some of the first health care decisions young adults must make are vaccination decisions related to college admission, with meningococcal vaccine being a focus of discussion for incoming freshmen.
NVIC provides reliable information on diseases and vaccines to assist young adults and parents who are navigating these waters for the first time. As college choices are weighed, many families have found it helpful to proactively:
- research the state’s vaccine requirements and exemption laws as part of college selection process;
- ask the admissions officer for the school’s vaccination and exemption policy in writing (should be on the institution’s letterhead), if it is not already available on the institution’s website; and
- ask if there are programs, such as nursing or other medical programs which require vaccination.
It is better to have this information in advance of deciding which college to attend so that there are no surprises when filling out the college enrollment paperwork.
NVIC is your go-to resource!
The good news is that NVIC’s website provides the public with the information and resources necessary to navigate the enrollment process. In addition, please consider the following tips:
- Be aware of the difference between a legal vaccine requirement and a recommendation to prevent bullying and coercion.
- Research the state vaccine requirements and exemption laws for your setting (day care, K-12, college, private institution) to understand requirements and exemption options and how they apply to your situation.
- Research whether or not your state allows exemption from vaccination, or revaccination, if there is proof of immunity.
- If dealing with a private business or institution that is not required to follow state vaccine laws, obtain written documentation of the vaccine policy to prevent bullying and coercion in private settings.
- Understand the basics of FERPA and HIPAA and the privacy implications of your choices.
Vaccine requirements and exemptions change – stay informed
Some state laws permit health departments to add new vaccine requirements through administrative rule changes. There have also been numerous attacks on state vaccine exemption laws, as well as efforts to expand vaccine requirements.19 While vaccine mandates are determined at a state level, how vaccine requirements are implemented can vary.
The best way to know what is happening in your state and protect your ability to make informed, voluntary vaccine decisions is by registering for NVIC’s free Advocacy Portal. The portal provides links to contact your legislator, bill information and analysis, and talking points when legislation to expand or restrict vaccine freedom of choice is introduced so that contacting your legislator with your concerns is easy.
NVIC encourages our readers to use the resources discussed above, research and become knowledgeable of your rights, and join NVIC in protecting and expanding vaccine freedom of choice for children and adults now and in the future!
Click the plus sign at the bottom of this page to view and/or post comments on our commentary.
1 CDC. Percentage of private provider sites actively participating in a grantee
immunization information system -- United States, six cities, and eight Territories, 2009. Accessed Jul. 20, 2018.
2 CDC. Percentage of private provider sites actively participating in a grantee
immunization information system -- United States, six cities, and eight Territories, 2009. Accessed Jul. 20, 2018.
3 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Medicare & Medicaid EHR Incentive Program. Accessed Jul. 20, 2018.
4 Medical Records.com. Government EHR/EMR Incentives Information. Accessed Jul. 20,2018.
5 U.S. Department of Education. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). Mar. 1, 2018.
6 HHS. HIPAA – Does the HIPAA Privacy Rule apply to an elementary or secondary school? Jul. 26, 2013.
7 HHS. HIPAA – Does FERPA or HIPAA apply to records on students at health clinics run by postsecondary institutions? Jul. 26, 2013.
8 U.S. Department of Education. Laws & Guidance – Letter to Alabama Department of Education re: Disclosure of Immunization Records. FERPA Online Library. Feb. 25, 2004.
9 DOE. Protecting Student Privacy – Frequently Asked Questions: Exceptions - Health and Safety Emergency. Accessed Jul. 13, 2018.
10 HHS. HIPAA – Student Immunizations. Sep. 19, 2013.
11 HHS. HIPAA – Does FERPA or HIPAA apply to elementary or secondary school student health records maintained by a health care provider that is not employed by a school? Jul. 26, 2013.
12 HHS. Summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Jul. 26, 2013.
13 Torrey, T. Are Medical Records Private? Verywellhealth. Jun. 6, 2018.
14 NVIC. Colorado State Vaccine Requirements. Mar. 16, 2018.
15 DOE. Protecting Student Privacy – File a Complaint. Accessed Jul. 13, 2018.
16 Council of Europe. Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine: Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine. Apr. 4, 1997
17 Nir E. Informed Consent. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2011 (Fall Edition).
18 Cohen J, Ezer T. Human rights in patient care: A theoretic and practical framework. Health and Human Rights Journal 2013
19 NVIC. State Vaccine Legislation in America 2015-2017. Oct. 25, 2017.
By Barbara Loe Fisher
To activate and view hyperlinked references, please click once and then click any superscripted number below to access a hyperlinked reference, or scroll down to the bottom of the article to view all hyperlinked references.
Every July Americans celebrate the day in 1776 when we declared our independence from a monarchy and began to create a Constitutional Democratic Republic to secure liberty and justice for all. 1 Today, we are witnessing the erosion of core values that our constitutional democracy was founded upon. One example is a public campaign led by the medical establishment to demonize and discriminate against anyone opposing zero tolerance vaccine laws that violate human rights in the name of public health. 2
The 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act was historic acknowledgement by the US government that government licensed and mandated childhood vaccines can and do cause injury and death. 3 Four billion dollars in federal compensation has been paid to thousands of vaccine victims over the past three decades. 4
The 1905 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Jacobson v Massachusetts affirmed the authority of states to require healthy citizens to undergo smallpox vaccination during outbreaks of that deadly, high communicable disease. However, the Court also warned that vaccine mandates should not be implemented in a way that is “cruel and inhuman to the last degree.” 5 6
Public Confidence in Vaccine Safety Declines, Public Debate Is Censored
Today, all children in America are being required to get dozens of doses of vaccines, 7 whether or not the disease is deadly or high communicable, whether or not there is a disease outbreak, and whether or not a child is biologically at higher risk for being harmed by vaccination. 8 9 This is an inconvenient truth that nobody developing, licensing, recommending, administering or voting to mandate a growing list of vaccines wants to talk about. So, as more Americans have become aware of vaccine risks and failures, the government, industry and medical trade have enlisted the cooperation of mainstream media to censor the public conversation. 10 11 12
It hasn’t worked. Recent surveys reveal that 20 percent of Americans think vaccines may be unsafe and 45 percent are not sure. There has been almost a 10 percent decline in public confidence in vaccine safety over the past decade. 13
Medical Doctors Attack Anyone Questioning Vaccine Safety and Laws
Now the conversation about vaccination has taken an ugly turn. 14 Prominent medical doctors and professors at leading universities are publishing articles in academic journals and are being quoted in media reports attacking the intelligence, emotional and psychological stability, and moral values of anyone who dares to question vaccine safety or vaccine laws. 15 16 17 18 19
Men and women who become doctors are no more equal than anyone else in society and, yet, they are being given a free pass to track, profile, marginalize, coerce and call for segregation and criminal prosecution of fellow, citizens who disagree with them about vaccination. 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Constitutional Democracy Values Individual Life and LIberty
A constitutional democracy recognizes that the ultimate source of government authority is consent of the governed and that, although the majority rules, the natural rights of minorities are protected. 28 A constitutional democracy highly values the dignity and life of each individual. This core moral value is affirmed by laws that protect privacy, and freedom of thought, conscience and expression, and allow unsanctioned association between individuals without government coercion, which is the legal foundation for a civil and open society built on respect, tolerance and inclusion.
A constitutional democracy promotes fair and equal justice for all. So the authors of the Declaration of Independence rejected rule by an elitist ruling class of citizens who are considered to be more important and qualified to govern without the consent of those being governed. 29 The Bill of Rights in the US Constitution makes it clear that respect for the natural rights of individuals limits the power of the state. As Thomas Jefferson put it: “the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate would be oppression.” 30
Why, then, are we allowing an elite aristocracy of doctors and professors to bully people who disagree with them about laws that disempower parents and place an unequal vaccine risk burden on vulnerable children in the name of the public health? 31
Two Laws in America Require Citizens to Risk Their Lives
There are only two laws that require American citizens to risk their lives. The first is a federal law, the military draft, which requires all healthy male adults to risk their lives in a war declared by the government to protect national security. Adults objecting to a war for religious beliefs or conscience can obtain a conscientious objection exemption without being punished.32
The second is a state law requiring all healthy children to risk their lives in a war that doctors declared on microbes two centuries ago. However, unlike adults who are not punished for following their conscience and refusing to fight in a war to protect national security, parents can be punished for following their conscience and refusing to risk their children’s lives in a war to theoretically protect the public health. 33 34 State sanctions include segregation and loss of the unvaccinated child’s right to a school education or permitting pediatricians to deny medical care to children if their parents refuse one or more government recommended vaccinations. 35
Two different laws that require healthy Americans to risk injury or death: one conscripting adults in what government clearly defines as an emergency military action; and the other conscripting children in a mandatory vaccination program that is not defined as an emergency military action but is operated like one.
Vaccine Risks Not Being Shared Equally By All
How many Americans understand that when legislators vote for no exceptions vaccine laws like the one adopted in California in 2015, 36 they vote to enlist children as soldiers in a war in which vaccine risks are not being shared equally by all?
No two children are alike. Some children are genetically, biologically or environmentally more susceptible to being injured or killed by vaccines without warning. 37 38 To sweep this inconvenient truth under the rug so doctors don’t have to think about their moral duty to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics have narrowed medical contraindications to vaccination so that now almost no health condition qualifies as a reason to grant a child a medical exemption. 39 40
Since Congress gave doctors a broad liability shield in 1987 similar to the one they gave to vaccine manufacturers in 1986 to protect them from most vaccine injury lawsuits, 41 doctors no longer have to worry about getting sued for being militant enforcers of vaccine policies and laws that punish children for the genes they were born with and leave too many of them disabled and chronically ill for the rest of their lives.
War On Microbes Conducted Like A Military Campaign
The medical establishment’s war on microbes, which has no end in sight, has always been conducted like a military campaign. The Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) traces its history back to the US Marine Hospital Service, whose doctors had the power to segregate by quarantine and prevent immigrants sick with infectious diseases from disembarking from ships entering U.S. ports. 42
Today, doctors employed by the U.S. Public Health Service wear military style uniforms, are expected to follow orders, and are promoted through a rank system similar to that of the U.S. Navy. 43 Supervised by a Surgeon General, who is technically a three star Admiral reporting to a four star Assistant Secretary of Health, the US Public Health Service is described as “an elite team of more than 6,700 full time, well trained, highly qualified public health professionals.” These health soldiers, along with other federal and state government health officials, work to maintain the public health.
Zero Tolerance Vaccine Laws Lead to Tyranny
But there should be limits placed on the authority that public health officials and their physician colleagues exercise in a constitutional democracy. They should not be given unchecked power to order parents to play vaccine roulette with their children’s lives and punish them for refusing to obey the order. 44
My father was a decorated World War II veteran, a career Army officer and military historian. History teaches us, he said, that military campaigns should only be used in true emergencies to protect national security because militarization of civilian institutions inevitably leads to an authoritarian government and tyranny.
So when I see doctors aggressively lobby for enforcement of zero tolerance, no mercy vaccine laws that fail to respect biodiversity and force parents to risk their children’s lives in a war they cannot refuse to fight without being punished, I remember what he said. I think about how there is no human right more fundamental than the freedom to think rationally and follow our conscience when making a decision about whether or not to risk our life or the life of our child for any reason.
Forced Vaccination Lobby Doubling Down in 2019
The forced vaccination lobby backed by industry and medical trade is already making plans to double down and target multiple states in 2019 for removal of religious and conscientious belief exemptions, while also placing further restrictions on medical exemptions to vaccination. 45
Will you stand up and defend vaccine freedom in America?
I hope you will. I hope you will join with the tens of thousands of Americans who are registered users of the NVIC Advocacy Portal, which is an online communications network at NVICAdvocacy.org. We monitor, analyze and report on vaccine legislation pending in every state and make it easy for you to stay electronically connected with your own legislators so you can make your voice heard.
Become a vaccine freedom advocate in your state and stand shoulder to shoulder with other Americans who care about protecting the core moral values and civil liberties defined in the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution.
It’s your health. Your family. Your choice.
Click the plus sign at the bottom of this page to view and/or post comments on our commentary.
1 National Archives. America’s Founding Documents: Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights.
2 Fisher BL. The Vaccine Culture War in America: Are You Ready? National Vaccine Information Center Mar. 8, 2015.
3 Public Law 99-660. Title III – National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. 42 USC 300aa. Nov. 14, 1986.
4 Health Resource Services Administration (HRSA). Vaccine Injury Compensation Data. June 4, 2018.
5 Jacobson v. Massachusetts. 197 U.S. 11(1905). Cornell University Law School.
6 Fisher BL. Forced Vaccination: The Tragic Legacy of Jacobson v. Massachusetts. National Vaccine Information Center Nov. 2, 2016.
7 NVIC. State Law and Vaccine Requirements. National Vaccine Information Center. 2018.
8 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Recommended Immunization Schedules for Persons Aged 0 Through 18 Years, United States, 2018.
9 Fisher BL. Blackmail and the Medical Vaccine Exemption. National Vaccine Information Center May 18, 2015.
10 Carroll AE. Not Up for Debate: The Science Behind Vaccination. New York Times Sept. 17, 2015.
11 Hodge JG, Campos-Outcalt D. Legally Limiting Lies About Vaccines. Jurist (University of Pittsburgh) Nov. 17, 2015.
12 Caplan A. Revoke the license of any doctor who opposes vaccination. Washington Post Feb. 6, 2015.
13 TVR Staff. Nearly 20 Percent of Americans Think Vaccines May Be Unsafe, 45 Percent Are Not Sure. The Vaccine Reaction June 18, 2018.
14 Fisher BL. Class and Race Profiling in the Vaccine Culture War. National Vaccine Information Center July 17, 2017.
15 Poland GA, Jacobson RM. The age-old struggle against the antivaccinationists. N Engl J Med 2011; 364(2): 97-99.
16 American Psychological Association. Belief in Conspiracy Theories Associated with Vaccine Skepticism. APA Press Release Feb. 1, 2018.
17 Hornsey MJ, Harris EA, Fielding KS. The Psychological Roots of Anti-Vaccine Attitudes: A 24-Nation Investigation. Health Psychology 2018; 37(4): 307-315.
18 Hendrix KS, Sturm LA et al. Ethics and Childhood Vaccination Policy in the United States. Am J Public Health 2016; 106(2): 273-278.
19 Fentiman LC. When it comes to vaccines, rich parents get away with child neglect. Washington Post May 10, 2017.
20 Fisher BL. Parents Deserve To Know More Than School Vaccination Rates. National Vaccine Information Center Sept. 8, 2015.
21 Smith PJ, Chu SY, Barker LE. Children Who Have Received No Vaccines: Who Are They and Where Do They Live? Pediatrics 2004; 114(1): 187-195.
22 Fagone J. Will this Doctor Hurt Your Baby? Philadelphia Magazine June 2009.
23 Bakalar N. Rich, White and Refusing Vaccinations. New York Times Dec. 24, 2015.
24 Danziger PD, Diamond R. The Vaccination Double Standard. Slate July 25, 2016.
25 Lipinski J. Endangering the Herd: The Case for Suing Parents Who Don’t Vaccinate Their Kids or Criminally Charging Them. Slate Aug. 13, 2013.
26 Berezow A. Jail 'anti-vax" parents. USA Today Jan. 28, 2015.
27 Karlamangla S. California doctor critical of vaccines is punished for exempting 2-year-old boy from all childhood immunizations. Los Angeles Times June 29, 2018.
28 Center for Civic Education. Constitutional Democracy.
29 National Archives. America’s Founding Documents: Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights.
30 Jefferson T. Excerpt from First Presidential Inaugural Address (Mar. 4, 1801). Thomas Jefferson Foundation (Monticello).
31 Fisher BL. Baylor’s Doc Hotez Bullies Parents of Vaccine Injured Children. National Vaccine Information Center May 10, 2018
32 The National Peace Museum of Conscientious Objection and Anti-War Activism. The History of Conscientious Objection. 2006.
33 Fisher BL. The Moral Right to Conscientious, Philosophical and Personal Belief Exemption to Vaccination. National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Oral Presentation May 2, 1997.
34 National Vaccine Information Center. Cry for Vaccine Freedom Wall.
35 NVIC. State Vaccine Legislation in America 2015-2017. National Vaccine Information Center Oct. 25, 2017.
36 Richardson D. The Fallout from SB277: What Happens Next? National Vaccine Information Center Aug. 5, 2015.
37 Institute of Medicine Committee to Review Adverse Effects of Vaccines. Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality. Evaluation of Biologic Mechanisms of Adverse Effects: Increased Susceptibility (p. 82). Washington, D.C. The National Academies Press 2012.
38 Health Resource Services Administration (HRSA). Vaccine Injury Compensation Data. June 4, 2018.
39 CDC. Vaccine Recommendations of the ACIP: Contraindications and Precautions. May 9, 2018.
40 American Academy of Pediatrics. Medical Versus Nonmedical Exemptions for Child Care and School Attendance. Pediatrics August 2016.
41 National Vaccine Information Center. NVIC Position Statement on the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act. May 2018.
42 DHHS. History of the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service.
43 Collins C. The Public Health Service Commissioned Corps: Two Centuries and Counting. Defense Media Network Oct. 10, 2016.
44 Fisher BL. From Nuremberg to California: Why Informed Consent Matters in the 21st Century. National Vaccine Information Center Oct. 24, 2017.
45 Scutti S. Opting out of vaccines leaves these US ‘hot spots’ most vulnerable to outbreaks. CNN June 15, 2018.