What the history of student vaccination mandates means for school COVID vaccine rules

November 19, 2021

School vaccine mandates go back 200 years. They’ve defeated many legal challenges. Will they work for COVID?


The vaccination of 5- to 11-year-olds against COVID-19 is well underway. California has become the first state to announce that it will add this vaccine to its list of shots that are required for all schoolchildren, and a handful of districts around the country are making similar moves. NPR’s Anya Kamenetz reports that this kind of mandate goes back nearly two centuries, but it has always drawn pushback.

ANYA KAMENETZ, BYLINE: In 1827, Boston became the first city in the United States to require children entering school to be vaccinated; in this case, against smallpox. Inoculation was almost like a miracle. This was a disease that once killed nearly 1 out of 3 patients. But Elena Conis, a historian of medicine at the University of California, Berkeley, said…

ELENA CONIS: Vaccines have been controversial since the very first vaccine was developed against smallpox. And vaccination became increasingly problematic or increasingly controversial when states began to make it mandatory.

Read more at NPR.

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