Unvaccinated Students May Be Subject to Exclusion from School Based on Measles Exposure

The current measles outbreak in Southern California has underscored the importance of schools maintaining current and complete lists of students with immunization exemptions on file.

As we discussed in a California law permits parents or guardians to exempt their children from immunizations required for school admission by completing and filing the   (See Health and Safety Code § 120365; Title 17, Code of Regulations, § 6051.)

During the ongoing measles outbreak, the “fine print” on the Personal Beliefs Exemption form has taken on increased significance.  As the form indicates, students who are exempted from required immunizations may be excluded from attending school during an outbreak of, or after exposure to, certain communicable diseases.  Under , when there is “good cause” to believe that an unimmunized student has been exposed to a communicable disease listed in section, including measles, that student may be excluded from school “until the local health officer is satisfied that the person is no longer at risk of developing the disease.”  (See also, Title 17, Code of Regulations, § 6060.)

Earlier this month, this attendance exclusion law was invoked by the after it determined that a high school student had attended school while infectious with measles shortly after the winter break.  The Health Care Agency worked with the school district to order approximately twenty (20) of the infectious student’s classmates who had been exempted from the measles (MMR) immunization requirement to stay home from school for a period of twenty-one (21) days (the measles incubation period).

In the event that schools experience contagious disease exposure, whether during the current measles outbreak or any future event, it is imperative that the appropriate school officials have immediate access to a current and complete list of unimmunized students to facilitate their rapid implementation of any exclusion orders issued by the local public health official.

Should you have any specific questions regarding immunization requirements, personal beliefs exemptions, or attendance exclusions, including questions concerning more complicated situations involving homeless children or youth and foster children who are legally entitled to immediate school enrollment with or without immunization record please contact an AALRR office.

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