By early next year, all eligible students attending a Los Angeles public school will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The school district is the largest in the country to mandate the shot — which joins a list of other vaccines already required to attend school that protect against highly contagious diseases.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have vaccine requirements for children to attend school and child care facilities, including laws around allowable exemptions.
Massachusetts became the first state to enact a school vaccination requirement in the 1850s for the smallpox vaccine — the first immunization developed against a contagious disease — according to a publication by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other states followed suit, and by the 1980-1981 school year, all states had vaccination requirements for students entering the classroom, the CDC said.
Children in close proximity with poor ventilation and hygiene practices can lead to “transmission events,” said Dr. John Brownstein, an epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and an ABC News contributor.
“This is why vaccine mandates in schools have been super important,” Brownstein said. “They create a safe environment where you can recognize that you will not have transmission of a wide range of infectious diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough.”
The mandates have been “very successful” in preventing outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, he said.
Thanks to vaccination efforts, many highly contagious diseases that were once common, such as measles, mumps, whooping cough (aka pertussis) and chickenpox, are now rare, while polio and smallpox have been eradicated in the U.S. Routine child vaccination is estimated to prevent 936,000 premature deaths and 419 million illnesses in American children born between 1994 and 2018, according to the CDC.