As pharmaceutical companies race to manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine, many people are wary of a shot that is working its way through the approval process at record speed during a highly politicized pandemic, NBC News reports. While some professions could require employees to get the vaccine, experts say schools almost certainly will require students to — potentially setting the stage for a showdown between reluctant parents and education officials.
"We want to make sure kids return to in-person learning as quickly as possible, and we do see a vaccine playing a huge part in the process," said school law attorney Brian Schwartz, an adjunct professor of education law at the University of Illinois Springfield. "This is going to be a huge issue, and I don't think most people understand that yet."
It is an especially delicate time for parents to hesitate about vaccinating their children. Vaccines have long been a hot button issue, particularly as a small but vociferous group has spread false information, such as the debunked myth that the measles-mumps-rubella shot causes autism.
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As with other vaccines, the decision whether to require one for COVID-19 in schools will be made at the state and school district levels. While all 50 states require student vaccinations, a patchwork of laws allows for parental objections: All states allow for exemptions for children with medical reasons, and 45 states plus Washington, D.C., grant exemptions on the basis of religious objections, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. On top of that, 15 states allow for philosophical exemptions for people who object to immunizations on the basis of personal, moral or other grounds.
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