In many parts of the US, students must be vaccinated against certain illnesses to attend public K-12 schools. Some states allow medical, religious or philosophical exemptions; some may not.

Vaccines against Covid-19 have received emergency-use authorization from the FDA. They have not yet been FDA-approved as safe and effective.

Does the law allow public K-12 schools in the US to require students receive such an EUA vaccine, in order to attend classes in-person and without face coverings?

If not, are students required to apply for an available exemption to the general requirement to vaccinate, or would students not have to qualify for a specific exemption to the general requirement?

If this is state-specific, perhaps compare the situation in New York State with the situation in Mississippi.


1 Answer 1


Mandatory vaccination requires an act of the legislature in the state: here is the law for Washington state. The Dept. of Health is empowered to set certain rules within the confines of the law passed by the legislature. The law requires "full immunization" against "certain vaccine-preventable diseases in accordance with schedules and with immunizing agents approved by the state board of health", which are given here for the current year. These requiremnts are set up following RCW 28A.210.140, which does not specify any particular medical standard. The meningococcus vaccination requirement is part of the law, but the chicken pox vaccination requirement is not cooked into the law, it is a rule of the Dept. of Health. The courts generally defer to the DoH in setting those rules that implement the law authorizing the m to

adopt reasonable rules regarding the presence of persons on or about any school premises who have, or who have been exposed to, contagious diseases deemed by the state board of health as dangerous to the public health. Such rules shall specify reasonable and precautionary procedures as to such presence and/or readmission of such persons and may include the requirement for a certificate from a licensed physician that there is no danger of contagion.

Applied to covid vaccines, the question is whether it is reasonable to require vaccination against the disease, and using which vaccines? I expect that this may get tested in court, but at present there are no mandatory vaccination rules for covid in Washington. It is not definitionally unreasonable to require vaccination using a medicine that has not received full approval by the FDA (though perhaps some state may include a limit on possible vaccines – but I doubt there are any such statutory limits). It might be deemed unreasonable to require vaccination with a vaccine known to be unreliable and dangerous.

Washington law allows exemptions and includes "philosophical or personal objection" but then specifically disallows such exemption in the case of MMR. No state mandates vaccination when the vaccination is medically counter-indicated. In Washington, the "personal objection" exemption is available, unless the legislature passes a new law exempting covid vaccination from the exemption.

Mississippi does not allow personal or even religious objection exemptions. There is a medically-based exemption which boils down to "is not necessary". Like Washington, there is no (current) requirement for a covid vaccination analogous to the varicella vaccination requirement, so the question of legally mandating use of authorized but not approved vaccines does not arise. Here is a synopsis of proposed legislation in the US. NY State has a bill prohibiting mandatory covid vaccination for school attendance.

Public universities, on the other hand, can and do widely mandate vaccination for in-person class attendance. This is generally possible because state laws allow state universities to set the rules for their operation (not requiring the legislature to make every decision). In the case of the University of Washington, this resulted in Executive Order 60 in 1986, in response to the rise of HIV. That in turn created a committee on communicable diseases, which can and did make recommendations for mandatory vaccinations, which were accepted and implemented by the administration – for students. The verification procedure is not yet figured out.

  • This establishes that there is a statute in Washington, but it seems that the list of required shots can be changed by the state BoH. It does not say that schools in other states must have legislative approval to require covid vaccs. That "Mandatory vaccination requires an act of the legislature in the state" is not supported by the sources cited May 16, 2021 at 23:24
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    Read the sentences in order. I stated what the legislative authority for mandatory vaccination is in Washington. The second sentence says that very explicitly. You are misinterpreting what I said.
    – user6726
    May 17, 2021 at 0:38

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