What is an Exemption and What Does it Mean?

Exemptions from state or local requirements may apply to some children. All states and the District of Columbia allow a medical exemption. A medical exemption is allowed when a child has a medical condition that prevents them from receiving a vaccine. All but three states offer nonmedical exemptions for religious or philosophical reasons. Please check with your school to learn about exemptions or visit the School Vaccination Requirements and Exemptions tool.

An exemption in the school vaccination assessment reports could mean one of several things:

  1. The parent refused a dose of vaccine for their child.
  2. The parent refused a specific vaccine series for their child.
  3. The parent refused all vaccines for their child. Based on available information, we believe parents refusing all vaccines for their children is an uncommon occurrence. A study of schoolchildren with nonmedical exemptions found that 75% of these children had received at least one vaccine previously. Additionally, over the past several years, vaccination coverage measured using data from the National Immunization Survey indicate that <1% of children 19–35 months received no vaccines of any type.


  • Salmon DA, Moulton LH, Omer SB, DeHart MP, Stokley S, Halsey NA. Factors associated with refusal of childhood vaccines among parents of school-aged children. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2005;159:470-6.
  • CDC. National, State, and Local Area Vaccination Coverage Among Children Aged 19-35 Months — United States, 2012. MMWR 2013; 62:685-693.
  • See publications for additional data sources.