The Massachusetts Department of Public Health requires children to be vaccinated in order to be enrolled to school. There are two situations in which children who are not appropriately immunized may be admitted to school:
1) a medical exemption is allowed if a physician submits documentation attesting that an immunization is medically contraindicated; and
2) a religious exemption is allowed if a parent or guardian submits a written statement that immunizations conflict with their sincere religious beliefs.
The law states that medical exemptions must be presented at the beginning of each school year. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health recommends also requesting religious exemptions on an annual basis, in writing, at the beginning of each school year.
Philosophical exemptions are not allowed by law in Massachusetts, even if signed by a physician. Only medical and religious exemptions are acceptable. These exemptions must be kept in the students’ files at school.
Policies for Exclusion at School Entry
The only exception for exclusion of unimmunized or partially immunized children who do not have documentation of a medical or religious exemption is in the case of homeless children, whereby they cannot be denied entry to school if they do not have their immunization records. The federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act states that if a homeless student does not have proper documentation of immunizations or any medical records, the Homeless Education Liaison at your school must immediately assist in obtaining them, and the student must be enrolled and permitted to attend school in the interim.
Exclusion During Disease Outbreaks
In situations when one or more cases of a vaccine-preventable or any other communicable disease are present in a school, all susceptibles, including those with medical or religious exemptions, are subject to exclusion as described in the Reportable Diseases and Isolation and Quarantine Requirements.
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