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No Shots, No School! Not true in Virginia.

Despite what you may be hearing or receiving in the mail from your local schools, you do have a choice. You also have legal protections to ensure those choices are honored. In Virginia there a several exemptions available for vaccinations required by the state. These exemptions include both religious, medical and existing immunity. Additionally, the HPV and Flu shots can simply be declined with no paperwork required.

Religious Exemptions

A religious exemption is valid for any deeply held sincere belief. Once the exemption is submitted the school system can no longer request proof of any immunization for the child. The religious exemption covers all school requirements. If you are opposed to certain immunizations for deeply held beliefs and religious reasons the religious exemption will cover you. You do not need to submit one for each individual immunization, and you will no longer be required to show proof of any immunizations you do decide to have administered.

“The student or his parent or guardian submits a notarized Certificate of Religious Exemption (Form CRE 1), to the admitting official of the school to which the student is seeking admission. Form CRE 1 is an affidavit stating that the administration of immunizing agents conflicts with the student's religious tenets or practices.”

The form for religious exemptions can be found here.

School districts may have you submit a new form when moving from elementary to middle and middle to high schools. This is a very simple process and can be turned in with any other required paperwork.

Medical Exemptions

Medical exemptions exist for varied reasons related to private health conditions and concerns. If you believe your child has a qualifying issue, please discuss this privately with your provider.

As a parent in Virginia, you have a fundamental right to make these decisions for your children. When speaking with a care provider you have the ability to accept, decline or delay at any time without pressure or coercion. If you are experiencing any of these it may be time to find a new provider.

The provider should detail all of the risks, benefits, VAERS and give you an option. This is called informed consent.

“The school has written certification on either of the documents specified under "documentary proof" in 12VAC5-110-10 from a physician, registered nurse, or a local health department that one or more of the required immunizations may be detrimental to the student's health. Such certification of medical exemption shall specify the nature and probable duration of the medical condition or circumstance that contraindicates immunization.”

Documentary Proof

The medical exemption form can be found here.

The Virginia legal definition of documentary proof is very specific;

"Documentary proof" means an appropriately completed copy of the most current version of Form MCH 213G signed by a physician or his designee, registered nurse, or an official of a local health department. A copy of the immunization record signed or stamped by a physician or his designee, registered nurse, or an official of a local health department indicating the dates of administration including month, day, and year of the required vaccines, shall be acceptable in lieu of recording these dates on Form MCH 213G, as long as the record is attached to Form MCH 213G and the remainder of Form MCH 213G has been appropriately completed. A printout of an immunization record from the provider's electronic health record can be accepted without a signature or stamp. For a new student transferring from an out-of-state school, any immunization record, which contains the exact date (month/day/year) of administration of each of the required doses of vaccines, is signed by a physician or his designee or registered nurse, and complies fully with the requirements prescribed under 12VAC5-110-70 shall be acceptable.

Existing Immunity

Existing immunity can be demonstrated by drawing titers. Your provider can request these labs and fill out the medical exemption paperwork accordingly.

“Demonstration of existing immunity. The demonstration in a student of antibodies against mumps, measles, rubella, or varicella in sufficient quantity to ensure protection of that student against that disease, shall render that student exempt from the immunization requirements contained in 12VAC5-110-70 for the disease in question. Such protection should be demonstrated by means of a serological testing method appropriate for measuring protective antibodies against mumps, measles, rubella, or varicella respectively. Reliable history of chickenpox disease diagnosed or verified by a health care provider shall render students exempt from varicella requirements.”


“Upon the identification of an outbreak, potential epidemic, or epidemic of a vaccine-preventable disease in a public or private school, the commissioner has the authority to require the exclusion from such school of all children who are not immunized against that disease.”

What does this mean? In Virginia the health commissioner has extremely broad authority. If an outbreak occurs of a specific defined illness that has an immunization available, the commissioner can exclude your child from the school for not having that specific immunization. This would come in the form of a written public order that outlines and defines that outbreak and the requirements or orders being issued.

An order from the health commissioner would not void all exemptions.

An example of this occurrence would be as follows; If your child does not have the MMR vaccine during a declared outbreak of measles they could be excluded from school. They would not be required to have everything they have opted out of to be present in the classroom. They would only be required to have the MMR administered to return during the outbreak.

If this were to occur, and the parent chooses to exempt the child, the parent would have the option of virtual school, home study or other reasonable accommodations provided by the school board.

Legal Resources

Legal resources for denial of any exemption can be found here.

Minimum Requirements

In 2019 HB1090 greatly expanded the Virginia minimum requirements for immunizations for schools. The Virginia Department of Health, an unelected board that is not accountable to the people, now sets the mandates. They can be addressed via public petition on their site here. Prior to adding anything to the school mandate they are required to have a public hearing. They have expressed that they will add anything recommended by the CDC to the requirements/mandates list.

The current requirements can be found here.

Final Thoughts

In Summary, as a parent in Virginia you have options. You have the right to accept, decline or delay without pressure, coercion, or fear.

Each person is unique and has their own biological individual make-up. No health product, especially liability free ones, come without significant concerns. These decisions should always be private between the patient and provider. In Virginia the law covers that. You do have a choice, and these exemptions ensure accountability on the part of the school systems and the school boards to enforce the right to those choices and honor the rights of the parents.

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