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An effort was made by Rep. Jeff Shipley earlier this year to require schools inform parents of the medical and religious exemptions Iowa offers when it comes to vaccinations.

Shipley said he is concerned that parents are not aware of the exemptions and believes it is an important religious issue.

During that subcommittee, medical and public health representatives expressed concern over such an idea. Chaney Yeast of Blanke Children’s Hospital worried it would increase “misuse” of the religious exemption because “busy” parents would simply claim a religious exemption instead of getting their child a vaccine.

She also questioned why a school would be tasked with the responsibility of educating parents about the legal exemptions for vaccines that schools are saying are required. Instead suggesting that conversation should happen between families and medical providers. She called the idea of having schools include educational information about medical and religious exemptions for vaccines a “burden.”

Lina Tucker Reinders of the Iowa Public Health Association said schools are supposed to be a safe, healthy place for learning and vaccines are essential for that. Reinders said asking schools to provide parents information for option out of vaccinations runs contrary to the concept that schools should be safe, healthy zones for learning and is contrary to a school’s self-interest. She added that any exemption should be medically warranted.

Amy McCoy, with the Iowa Department of Public Health, said that information about religious and medical exemptions is included in packets provided at kindergarten round-ups across the state. The packets, though, only go to schools that order them. And that information only goes to kindergarten parents.

Despite all that, it appears, at least in this instance, this bill may well be necessary.

An Iowa school recently sent this note to the parents of a student (everything appears as it does in the note):

“Our records show that your child still needs a MANDATORY immunization in order to stay in school, per IOWA STATE LAW. Our school district will allow 2 weeks from the start of school to get these mandatory vaccinations updated. Please get the following immunization by Sept. 8. Mandatory State Immunization needed: (lists vaccine)”

As you can see, no mention of a medical exemption. No mention of a religious exemption.

Only mention is a “mandatory” vaccine in order to “stay in school” due to “Iowa state law.” All with the added emphasis.

Most children would likely not fall in the medical and/or religious exemption category for vaccines. But some undoubtedly do.

However, they can’t if their parents don’t know about it.

That note certainly suggests it’s vaccinate-or-bust for Iowa students and parents.

Considering the current “pandemic,” and likely COVID vaccine coming, the issue isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

It will need to be addressed in 2021, among many other things COVID related.

Jacob Hall

Author: Jacob Hall