Public school board officials have refused repeated requests from reporters and the BBC not to provide information on whether they allow unvaccinated staff to work in their schools, despite a recent report in the BBC that has shown a large percentage of their staff are either unvaccinated or have been given unauthorised exemptions to the vaccine programme in the UK.
The BBC investigation found that some public schools allow unvaccinated and unauthorised exemptions for flu and measles. However, this does not always apply, as parents of unimmunised children may be denied an exemption. The BBC’s investigation also revealed many headteachers know about these loopholes, but are being unable to make changes to the laws or clear up the confusion by schools.
In the UK, it is against the law for anyone under the age of 14 to be vaccinated with the flu jab and it is against the law for parents to exempt their children from their school’s vaccination policy, even if the pupil is only seven years old.
In Ireland, for example, vaccination is compulsory for all schoolchildren. While less schools require exemptions from vaccinations for flu, measles and chicken pox, the risk is still high. According to a recent report by the Department of Public Health in Ireland, children in 31% of schools are unvaccinated. The data suggest that this number could be higher than the percentage of students who are vaccinated.
The BBC Investigation found many headteachers know about these loopholes, but are being unable to make changes to the laws or clear up the confusion by schools.
In California, however, the child vaccination law applies equally to the child’s home and that of the school.
In the United States, the MCA Act applies in the state’s public schools too. The Act requires children be “vaccinated against any communicable disease, including but not limited to any contagious disease that requires vaccination to prevent its spread”.
The Act also grants parents the right to refuse vaccinations for religious, personal, philosophical or other exemptions.
Though the law might make the MMR vaccination policy more difficult to enforce, headteachers are telling parents they can override the requirements of the law. Some headteachers add that they can allow a parent to skip vaccination for their child as long as they go to a doctor and discuss a vaccine preference with the health team.
In California, any vaccine request is considered a violation of the personal or philosophical exemption, even if the headmaster allows the parent or guardian to skip the vaccination at their child’s school.
Sources: BBC News, Wall Street Journal, Health and Science Magazine, US Government