The law regulating vaccination and immunization for Massachusetts’ students is found in M.G.L. c. 76, Section 15.
According to the law, no child shall be admitted to school unless the school is first provided with a physician’s certificate showing that the child has been immunized against the following viruses:
- pertussis (whooping cough)
- poliomyelitis (“polio”)
- and “such other communicable diseases as may be specified from time to time by the department of public health.”
The law provides two exceptions.
First, a student may present the school with a certification from his or her physician stating that the student’s health could be endangered if he or she received a required vaccine. Such a certification must be submitted by the student each school year. The doctor in charge of the school system’s health program may contest the certification. If that happens, the matter is referred to the department of public health, whose decision is final.
Second, a student may object to being vaccinated on religious ground. According to the statute,
In the absence of an emergency or epidemic of disease declared by the department of public health, no child whose parent or guardian states in writing that vaccination or immunization conflicts with his sincere religious beliefs shall be required to present said physician’s certificate in order to be admitted to school.
A recent bill (Bill H.2411) has been presented to the state legislature seeking to remove the religious exemption from the statute, thus forcing the vaccine requirements on all residents regardless of their religious beliefs.