IMMUNIZATION REQUIREMENTS AND EXEMPTIONS
The California Health and Safety Code says that no student may be admitted to any public or private school for the first time, or admitted or advanced to 7th grade, unless that student is fully immunized for his or her age.
Pupils enrolled in home-based private schools and students enrolled in independent study programs who are not receiving classroom-based instruction are not subject to the mandatory vaccinations.
This means that most homeschoolers should be exempt from the immunization requirements.
(1) If you establish your own home-based private school and file a private school affidavit, your children are not subject to the immunization law.
(2) If your child is enrolled in a private school satellite program (PSP) which is home based, your child is not subject to the immunization law.
(3) If your child is enrolled in a public or charter independent study program, your child may or may not be subject to the immunization law, depending on whether or not enrollment includes classroom-based instruction. The definition of classroom- based instruction is not clear in the law and may therefore be interpreted differently by various entities such as health departments, public and charter school administrators, and state and county education departments. You may or may not find that your child's independent study program requires immunizations as a condition of enrollment.
Medical Reasons for Exemption
Although homeschoolers are, in general, exempt from all immunizations, we include this information as it may be useful in case your child is enrolled in a hybrid program (home and classroom) or in case a previously homeschooled child goes to school.
Under current California law, a doctor can issue a medical exemption for children whose medical circumstances are such that immunization is not considered safe under the standard of medical care.
Presently, CDPH does not review medical exemptions. This change in the law will allow these medical exemptions to be examined under certain circumstances listed below.
By January 1, 2021, the state will be collecting medical exemptions electronically. However, CDPH will not review every medical exemption. Under SB 276 and SB 714, medical exemptions will be reviewed when:
• A school’s immunization rate falls below 95% or
• A doctor writes more than 5 medical exemptions per year beginning January 1, 2020 or
• A school fails to provide reports of vaccination rates to CDPH.
In addition, a medical exemption that does not meet the above criteria may be reviewed, on case by case basis, if CDPH determines it is necessary to protect public health.
Until January 1, 2021, parents will continue to submit medical exemptions to a school or daycare using a form or letter prepared by their medical provider. Beginning in January 2021 all medical exemptions will be submitted electronically directly into the California Immunization Registry (CAIR) utilizing a standard form.
All existing medical exemptions continue to be valid except as explained below.
• Parents of students with existing medical exemptions will need to submit a new exemption when the student begins a new ”grade span.” Grade spans are: birth to preschool, kindergarten (including transitional kindergarten) and grades 1-6, and grades 7-12.
• The only existing medical exemptions that could be revoked are those that were written by a doctor subject to disciplinary action by the Medical Board.
SB 276 and SB 714 do not limit the types of medical conditions that would qualify for a medical exemption. Medical exemptions can be granted for reasons outside of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines including family medical history, if they are consistent with the standard of medical care for that condition. Doctors issuing a medical exemption will provide a description of the medical basis
for the exemption.
Personal Beliefs or Religious Exemption
California no longer offers personal or religious exemptions to immunization requirements. However, some students may have their previous exemptions "grandfathered in." If a student received a personal beliefs exemption prior to January 1, 2016,
that exemption is valid until the student enters the next grade span. An exemption obtained for day care, for example, is no longer valid when the student enters kindergarten (or first grade if the student did not attend kindergarten). An exemption obtained prior to 7th grade is no longer valid when the student enters 7th grade. An exemption obtained in 7th grade or thereafter is valid through 12th grade.
(Remember, personal beliefs exemptions are no longer available and these exemptions only apply if a student had a personal belief exemption prior to 1/1/2016).
Privacy: Who is entitled to examine immunization records?
We recommend you maintain documentation of any vaccinations received, even if your children are exempt from the requirements. It is unlikely that anyone will ever want or be able to look at them, but it is possible that your local health department could ask to see them. See the link below for reporting requirements for those families filing the PSA with 6 or more children, or, you may choose to create two schools for your family; one school for the younger students and one for the older students to avoid this reporting requirement.
Do I need a TB test?
One could read the H&S §121525 and §121545 to say that parents are required to have updated TB tests, because all employees and volunteers in private schools must have them. Since there is an argument that parents are neither "employees" nor "volunteers" in the strict meaning of the words, it is unknown whether a court would apply this requirement to parents. If you have taken the test, by all means include the results in your records, but if you have not, you should make your own decision as to whether you wish to do so. People whom you hire as employees or volunteers in your private school having regular and prolonged contact with children would need to have an updated TB certificate.
Documentation of Immunizations
Most families are given a yellow booklet by their doctors showing the immunizations administered to their child and the dates of administration. These yellow booklets are important and should be kept with a family's important papers. If you don't have such a booklet or think it might not be up to date, contact your doctor.
PM286 Form - The yellow immunization booklets are not given to schools to keep. Rather, schools are required by law to keep immunization records on a particular form, called the PM286; schools copy over the immunization records from the original yellow booklet to the form and return the original to the family. If your child is enrolled in a public or private school that is subject to the mandatory vaccinations, the school will use your records to fill out a California School Immunization Record.
Shots 4 Schools - California Department of Public Health, Immunization Branch. This website contains information about immunizations required for school entry in California
Senate bill 277 - This bill was signed into law by the governor. It amends Health and Safety Code §§120325, §§120335, §§120370, and §§12375; adds §§120338; repeals §§120365.
California Health and Safety Codes §§120325 - §§120480 - describe the immunization requirements for public and private
schools in California.