Tag: homeschooling

Vaccines and Homeschooling Myths

Do many parents homeschool their kids because they don’t want to get them vaccinated and comply with vaccination laws?

Vaccines and Homeschooling Myths

Opponents to a vaccine law in California that removed personal belief vaccine exemptions, SB277, claimed that it would lead all children currently receiving personal belief exemptions to leave those schools and become homeschoolers.

One problem with this idea is that even though 32 states don’t allow personal belief vaccine exemptions, avoiding vaccines laws is not a top reason for why most parents choose to homeschool their kids.

“Parents cite a number of different reasons for choosing to homeschool, including concerns about the school environment and desires to provide religious/moral instruction.15 In fact, a Department of Education study says that 38.4 percent of respondents claim they are homeschooling for religious reasons,16 while Christopher Klicka suggests in his book, The Right to Home School, that it is closer to 85 percent.”

Khalili et al on Off the grid: vaccinations among homeschooled children

Instead, most parents homeschool because of:

  • academic reasons – thinking they can provide a better education for their kids at home and dissatisfaction with public or private school
  • family reasons – such as a child with special needs, not being able to get into the right school, transportation issues, or simply wanting more family time
  • religious reasons – including providing religious instruction at home
  • social reasons – including negative social activity and exposures at public and private schools

The availability of virtual education, cyber schools, and charter homeschools has likely also been a factor in some parents choosing to homeschool their kids.

What about vaccines?

In one article, Homeschooling parents’ practices and beliefs about childhood immunizations, only five parents (4%) included a desire not to vaccinate children as a reason for homeschooling.

Also, homeschooling rates are about the same in every state, just over 3% of students. A few outliers include Delaware (2.1%), North Carolina (7.7%), Pennsylvania (1.1%), West Virginia (4.6%), and Wisconsin (1.6%).

Of these states, only West Virginia doesn’t allow non-medical exemptions. But neither does Mississippi, which has very average homeschooling rates (3%).

Are Anti-vaxxers Turning to Homeschooling?

If anti-vaxxers are truly turning to homeschooling to avoid getting their kids vaccinated, we might have expected to see it happen in 2015, when California passed SB 277. That law eliminated non-medical vaccine exemptions and has been in effect since the 2016-2017 school year.

Orange County was the site of several large measles outbreaks before SB 277 took effect.
Orange County was the site of several large measles outbreaks before SB 277 took effect.

Although California is dealing with fake medical exemptions, there has not been a lot of evidence that many folks are homeschooling, leaving schools, or leaving the state after SB277 because they now have had to vaccinate and protect their kids.

“The law, however, does not apply to children who are home-schooled, a loophole that parents seem to be increasingly exploiting. Over the past three years, the number of kindergartners who were home-schooled and did not have their shots quadrupled, according to a Times analysis of state data.”

Parents who won’t vaccinate their kids turning to home-schooling in California, data show

While there were more homeschoolers last year in California (3%), the rise in homeschooling in California is also being seen in many states without new vaccine laws.

“Home-schooling mothers were concerned about SB-277 but did not report that it was directly impacting their children, their vaccine decisions, or reason to home school.”

McDonald et al on Exploring California’s new law eliminating personal belief exemptions to childhood vaccines and vaccine decision-making among homeschooling mothers in California

And, according to the Los Angeles Times, only “1.2% of the state’s kindergartners were home-schooled and unvaccinated in the last school year.”

The Homeschool Vaccine Loophole

It is also important to note that many states already have laws requiring homeschooled students to be vaccinated!

So yes, it is correct to say that the parents who are switching to homeschooling to avoid vaccinating and protecting their kids are exploiting a loophole.

“Submit proof of vaccination and receipt of any health services or examinations as required by law.”

Home Schooling in Tennessee

Interestingly, North Carolina, with one of the highest rates of homeschoolers, requires that homeschooled children be vaccinated.

Is being able to homeschool without vaccines a loophole that will have to be closed?

“And though most of their schooling may take place at home, many are part of programs that meet several times a week with other students. If one contracted a disease such as measles, they could still spread it at the park, or the grocery store, or anywhere they come into contact with other people, said Dr. James Cherry, a UCLA expert on pediatric infectious diseases.”

Parents who won’t vaccinate their kids turning to home-schooling in California, data show

It will likely depend if we end up seeing outbreaks among clusters of unvaccinated homeschoolers…

“During the six weeks after the gathering, a total of 34 cases of measles were confirmed. Of the patients with confirmed measles, 94 percent were unvaccinated, 88 percent were less than 20 years of age, and 9 percent were hospitalized. Of the 28 patients who were 5 to 19 years of age, 71 percent were home-schooled. “

Parker et al on Implications of a 2005 measles outbreak in Indiana for sustained elimination of measles in the United States.

Few people will remember the 2005 measles outbreak in Indiana that occurred mostly among intentionally unvaccinated homeschoolers and cost over $167,000 to contain. At the time, it was “the largest documented outbreak of measles in the United States since 1996.”

And it is likely that few people know about the two unvaccinated homeschooled kids in Oklahoma who got tetanus in 2012, including an 8-year-old who was in the ICU for 18 days…

What to Know About Vaccines and Homeschooling

Parents who homeschool their kids should get their kids vaccinated and protected on time and on schedule and follow all of the other AAP recommendations for preventative health care.

More on Vaccines and Homeschooling Myths

How Is California’s New Vaccine Law Working?

As clusters of unvaccinated kids in California grew and so did outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, legislators got ahead of the problem with a series of vaccine laws to get kids vaccinated and protected.

  • AB 2109 – signed into law in 2012, and in effect for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, it required parents to get a signed form from a health care provider if they wanted to get a vaccine exemption
  • SB 277 – signed into law in 2015, it eliminated non-medical vaccine exemptions and has been in effect since the 2016-2017 school year

So are all of the kids in California vaccinated now?

How Is California’s New Vaccine Law Working?

Unfortunately, some folks have found a way around the new vaccine laws.

How?

Some California doctors have taken advantage of fearful parents, and instead of doing the work to help parents understand that vaccines are safe with few risks, they are writing unjustified medical exemptions.

And since many of these parents share their fears with their friends, these intentionally unvaccinated kids often attend the same schools and use the same doctors to obtain unwarranted exemptions of their own. That results in the pockets of susceptible children we often talk about.

Some of these doctors have even created an industry out of providing medical exemptions to kids to get them out of getting vaccinated and protected before attending school. It is reported that they are selling fake medical vaccine exemptions for conditions that are not true medical contraindications to getting vaccinated!

Bob Sears is having to post about the latest measles outbreaks from the sidelines. There are very few measles cases in California so far this year.
Bob Sears is having to post about the latest measles outbreaks from the sidelines. There have been very few measles cases in California so far this year.

Still, many others have gotten vaccinated.

In fact, after years of declines, the vaccination rates for kids entering kindergarten in 2017 were at the highest rate since at least 1998!

“The proportion of students attending kindergarten in 2017-2018 reported to have received all required vaccines is 95.1%, a 0.4 percentage point decrease (difference of unrounded values) from the 2016-2017 school year and a 4.7 percentage point increase over the three years since 2014-2015. The 2017-2018 rate of 95.1% is the second highest reported for the current set of immunization requirements for kindergarten, which began in the 2001-2002 school year.”

2017-2018 Kindergarten Immunization Assessment – Executive Summary California Department of Public Health, Immunization Branch

What about the exodus from public schools that many predicted?

Orange County was the site of several large measles outbreaks before SB 277 took effect.
Orange County was the site of several large measles outbreaks before SB 277 took effect.

Or the exodus of folks California?

Neither happened.

“About 130,000 more residents left California for other states last year than came here from them, as high costs left many residents without a college degree looking for an exit, according to a Bee review of the latest census estimates.”

More people left California in 2017 than moved here. Who they are and where they went

While some people are leaving, it is typically for economic reasons.

It isn’t because folks have to vaccinate and protect their kids.

So except for not predicting that folks would try to get fake medical exemptions, California’s new vaccine law is working well!

More on the Effectiveness of California’s New Vaccine Law

Vaccine Requirements for College Entry

Most of our kids are up-to-date on their vaccines by the time they are ready to start college.

That’s likely why few of us give college vaccine requirements much thought.

Will this chicken pox outbreak in Ohio spread?
Will this chicken pox outbreak in Ohio spread?

But maybe it is something we should start thinking about more, as it seems that many colleges do not have actually require their students to be vaccinated and protected!

Vaccine Requirements for College Entry

The one vaccine that is the most often associated with going to college is the one that protects our kids against meningococcal disease.

That’s actually two vaccines though:

  • MCV4 – Menactra or Menveo
  • MenB – Bexsera or Trumenba

Which other vaccines should kids get before going to college?

They should get whatever vaccines they might have missed when they were younger, including MMR, chicken pox, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Tdap, HPV, and polio vaccines.

Plus they should get a flu vaccine every year.

Vaccine Recommendations for College Entry

Unfortunately, in many cases, instead of requirements to attend college, we really just have recommendations that students can choose to ignore.

What’s the likelihood that your fellow students are vaccinated and protected?

How many are unvaccinated?

Which school do you plan on attending?

“Immunizations are recommended to protect your health and the health of others, but they are not required by the university.”

Welcome to the University of Michigan!

Fortunately, most schools do require at least some vaccines.

In addition to either Menactra or Menveo, many require two doses of MMR.

Some also require three doses of hepatitis B vaccine.

A few, like the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin don’t require any vaccines though.

These are the ten of the biggest colleges in America, at least in terms of enrollment, and their immunization rules:

TdapMMRVarHepA/BMCV4MenBHPVIPV
OSU12
2X/31XX4
FlaR2RR/31RRR
Minn12XXXXXX
ASUR2XXRXRX
UTRRRR/R1XRX
UCFR2RR/RRRRR
A&MXXXX1XXX
MichRRRR/RRXRR
PSU
R2RR/RRRRX
WiscRRRR/RRX
RR

On the bright side, Ohio State University, with one of the largest combined graduate and undergraduate enrollment, has the strongest immunization requirements.

On the other hand, it is quite sad that many of the others either have weak requirements, only recommend (R), but don’t actually require many common immunizations for enrollment, or don’t even mention them (X).

Why don’t more colleges have stricter immunization requirements for enrollment?

It is likely that they haven’t caught up with the problem of parents skipping or delaying their kids’ immunizations.

“While many infectious diseases such as meningitis are rare, it is not uncommon for hundreds of students at a large university to contract the flu each season.”

Contagious on campus

Which brings us to a problem – how can colleges hope to control outbreaks well if they don’t even know which students are vaccinated or not, and so can’t easily quarantine unvaccinated students? They seem to manage mumps and meningococcal outbreaks, but neither are as contagious as measles or chicken pox. 

Do we really need to wait for more outbreaks on college campuses before we start requiring that kids be vaccinated and protected before going to college?

At the very least, can we at least start tracking vaccine-preventable disease rates in college kids, make flu deaths in college students reportable, and report vaccination exemption rates by college campus?

More on Vaccine Requirements for College Entry

Do Vaccine Mandates Force Parents to Vaccinate Their Kids?

Listening to some parents talk about new vaccine laws, you would think that pediatricians are going to start kidnapping babies or simply hold them down to force them to get vaccinated and follow the latest immunization schedule.

Is there any truth to that?

Of course not.

The History of Vaccine Mandates

There have been vaccine mandates in the United States since 1827, when Boston became the first city to require all children attending public schools to be vaccinated against smallpox.

Surprisingly though, it took a long time to get vaccine mandates protecting more children. It wasn’t until the 1980-81 school year that there were laws in all 50 states mandating that children required vaccinations before starting school.

This followed continued measles outbreaks in the mid-1970s and studies showing that states with vaccine mandates had much lower rates of measles than states that didn’t. And it likely explains why there were 10 measles deaths in the United States as late as 1980, even though the first measles vaccine was introduced in 1963.

It took even longer for the vaccine mandates to cover kids in all grades and not just those entering school, to cover kids in daycare, and to cover kids in college. And tragically, it didn’t take long for politicians to chip away at those vaccine mandates. Over just a few years, from 1998 to 2000, 15 states added personal belief vaccine exemptions.

Still, even before the addition of personal belief vaccine exemptions and without the abuse of religious exemptions and medical exemptions, vaccine mandates have never equaled forced vaccination.

Even the Vaccination Act of 1853 in the UK, which required everyone to get a small pox vaccine, didn’t actually force them to get vaccinated. It originally levied fines on people until they got the vaccine, but they soon allowed a conscientious exemption to vaccination, which many people took advantage of. Over the years, so many people were claiming conscientious vaccine exemptions in the UK, that in 1946, they repealed their vaccine requirements altogether.

What Is a Vaccine Mandate?

Since a mandate is typically defined as an official order to do something, a vaccine mandate would be an order to get a vaccine. But it is hardly an order to hold down and force a vaccine on someone.

Likewise, state laws that mandate vaccines aren’t forcing kids to get vaccinated. They are typically mandates to get vaccinated before attending daycare, public and private schools, and/or college.

Is your child going to camp this year? They might mandate certain vaccines if kids want to attend.

Do Vaccine Mandates Force Parents to Vaccinate Their Kids?

Do vaccine mandates take away a person’s choice about getting vaccinated?

Anti-vaccine folks go to great lengths to scare you into thinking that someone is going to force you to vaccinate your kids. They aren't...
Anti-vaccine folks go to great lengths to scare you into thinking that someone is going to force you to vaccinate your kids. They aren’t…

Of course not.

Again. We are not talking about forced vaccination.

For example, if you work in a hospital that requires a yearly flu vaccine, you can decide to work somewhere else. Sure, you no longer simply have the choice between getting vaccinated or leaving yourself unprotected and continuing to work at the same job, but you can still decide to skip the vaccine and look for another job.

These are mandates with a choice.

The same is true with vaccine mandates for kids to attend school or daycare. If you choose to skip one or more vaccines for a non-medical reason, then even if you are in a state that doesn’t allow religious or philosophical vaccine exemptions, you won’t be forced to get vaccinated. While it may not be an option you are happy with, homeschooling is an option for those who don’t want to vaccinate their kids.

That is your vaccine choice.

Public education is a benefit of those who comply with mandates or compulsory vaccination laws.

These state immunization laws and vaccine mandates have nothing to do with forced vaccination. They also don’t take away your informed consent, are not against the Nuremberg Code, and are not unconstitutional.

Have kids ever been forced to get vaccinations?

Not routinely, but there have been cases of health officials getting court orders to get kids vaccinated and protected, usually during outbreaks of a vaccine-preventable disease.

In 1991, for example, a judge ruled that parents of unvaccinated children who were members of the Faith Tabernacle Congregation in Pennsylvania had to get a measles vaccine. As a measles outbreak spread through Faith Tabernacle, an associated church, and the rest of the city, there were at least 486 cases of measles in the church, mostly among children, and 6 deaths.

“Parents are free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow that they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves.”

Prince v. Massachusetts

In addition to being unvaccinated, these children didn’t get any medical care, as their families instead relied on prayer. Finally, after the order was appealed all the way to the state Supreme Court, only nine children got vaccinated.

When parents disagree about vaccines, a judge might also step in decide that a child be vaccinated over one parent’s objections. A child might also get vaccinated against their parents wishes if they have lost custody for reasons that have nothing to do with the child’s medical issues and so a legal guardian, which might be the state, is making those decisions now.

Still, these are not the usual circumstances we are talking about with state vaccine laws. They are simply laws to get kids vaccinated and protected before they are allowed to attend daycare or school.

What to Know About Vaccine Mandates and Forced Vaccinations

Vaccine mandates do not force parents to vaccinate their kids.

More on Vaccine Mandates and Forced Vaccinations