What is a Vaccine Waiver?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 21 January 2020
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A vaccine waiver is a legal form providing documentation about religious, philosophical, or medical reasons why a person cannot receive vaccines. In situations where people require vaccination, people can present their waivers to explain why they are unable to comply with the mandate. The form provides an exemption and will be kept on file just like proof of vaccines for people who do receive them. People usually need to use a specific document, rather than drafting their own statement, and can request a copy of a vaccine waiver to fill out.

There are numerous settings where vaccination is required for safety, including schools and certain kinds of workplaces. For people who cannot receive vaccines, this requirement can present a barrier to full inclusion. Allowing them to receive an exemption creates a mechanism for promoting vaccination while still allowing people who can't get vaccines to participate. Vaccination relies on herd immunity, where most people have immunity, rather than complete protection, with every member of the population receiving a vaccination, and exemptions for a few people do not pose a public health threat.

Medical reasons people cannot get vaccines may include immunocompromise or documented allergies to vaccine components. Some religions ban vaccination, and other people may have philosophical objections. In some cases, a specific vaccine waiver is available for each kind of objection, while in others, people can use a generic form and check the applicable sections. The waiver will be kept on file along with other records.


One source for a vaccine waiver is an office at a school or workplace. People can request a waiver when they know they will need proof of vaccination or an exemption. Some doctors keep forms available so they can document medical exemptions for their patients, and it is also possible to download waivers online. It is important to review the form and make sure it is applicable to a given situation, as administrative personnel may reject the wrong form and force people to fill out a new one.

Generally, schools and workplaces cannot release confidential personnel information, including disclosures of whether people have received immunizations or filed a vaccine waiver. The exception to this rule is when there is a public health issue and this information must be available to government officials. In an outbreak of infectious disease, for example, it may be necessary to issue an advisory to people without vaccinations to warn them about increased risks so they can take appropriate precautions, like staying home.


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