Home / Health / Articles / Immunization requirements are common in US schools but few states have added COVID-19 vaccine mandates

Every state requires some vaccines for K-12 public school students to protect against communicable diseases. Vaccines for diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP vaccine/Tdap booster), measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), polio, and chickenpox (varicella) are required nationwide. Forty-seven states also require vaccinations for private school students, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some states also require vaccinations to prevent other diseases such as flu or human papillomavirus (HPV).

States also determine the exemption criteria for students to attend school without required vaccinations. The CDC provides a state-level breakdown of the common types of exemptions, such as medical, religious, and philosophical reasons, on its website.

In 2021, COVID vaccines became available for school children, Vaccines were cleared for use for kids 12-17 in May 2021, and for children 5-11 in November 2021.

States and school districts have debated whether to add COVID-19 vaccinations to their other vaccination requirements. California and Louisiana will require COVID-19 vaccination for students once the vaccine receives full approval from the Federal Drug Administration. Louisiana will also give parents the right to opt-out of the requirement. Nineteen states passed laws blocking COVID-19 vaccination requirements for K-12 school students.

As of April 26, 2022, at least 37.8 million children received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Measles, mumps, rubella vaccinations

Around 92% of teens ages 13–17 had at least two doses of the MMR vaccine, according to 2020 CDC data. New Hampshire, Indiana, and Massachusetts had the highest rate of teens with the MMR vaccine. Nevada, Arizona, and Texas had the lowest rate of MMR vaccination. In all states, at least 84% of teens are vaccinated against the diseases.

Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis vaccinations

Around 92% of teens ages 13–17 had at least one dose of the Td or Tdap booster as of 2020. New Jersey, Vermont, and Pennsylvania lead the US with the most teens vaccinated against the diseases. Hawaii, Alaska, and Missouri had the lowest Tdap vaccination rates.

Chickenpox vaccinations

About 92% of 13–17-year-olds with no disease history had at least two doses of the chickenpox vaccine as of 2020. In many states, immunity acquired through vaccinations or prior infection is acceptable to satisfy the school attendance requirements. New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Kentucky lead all states in vaccinating against the disease. Nevada, Arizona, and California have the lowest rates of teen chickenpox vaccination.

Human papillomavirus vaccinations

The newest vaccine required by some states prevents infections of HPV. The virus can cause multiple types of cancer, according to the CDC. Rhode Island, Hawaii, Virginia, and Washington, DC require the HPV vaccine for students. As of 2020, about 59% of the 13–17-year-olds in the US have received two or more shots of the vaccine. Rhode Island, Hawaii, and Massachusetts lead in vaccinating against the disease. Mississippi, West Virginia, and Oklahoma have the lowest HPV vaccination rates.