If Vaccination is Off-limits

Even though vaccines are required for children to attend school, forgoing certain vaccinations doesn’t mean forgoing school. All 50 states have a medical exemption for children whose doctors feel they should not have certain immunizations, says Dr. Gewanter.

If you and your child’s doctor decide that a particular vaccination is not your child’s best interest, the doctor will need to fill out an exemption form, which typically states the reason for the exemption, a specific vaccine or vaccines the child should not receive and the length of time the child may need to go without the immunization.

Forgoing an immunization doesn’t necessarily put your child at high risk of disease because there are precautions you can take, says Dr. Gewanter. Ensuring that family members and others your child interact with are up-to-date on their vaccines – such as influenza and chickenpox – can lower the disease risk for your child who is not immunized.

If your child does become ill, it’s important to get medical care as soon as possible. Prompt treatment improves the outcome for virtually any disease. For flu and chickenpox, there are antiviral medications that help if they are started in the first 48 hours after the first symptoms appear. In other situations, it's possible to use medications to try to prevent catching the disease after an exposure. It is also important to make sure that all of your child’s physicians knows about every medication being used so that your child is not immunized by mistake.