Under the Dome

North Carolina vaccination bill doesn’t cover home schools

Home schools could become the education option of choice for North Carolina families who could no longer claim a religious exemption to having their children vaccinated against disease under a bill introduced Thursday in the state Senate.

Senate Bill 346 drops the requirement that every child in the state be immunized against a range of diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, poliomyelitis, red measles and rubella. Instead, the bill says these vaccinations are required to attend school in this State (K‑12).

While the new bill would make for stricter immunization requirements for public schools, it would also result in homeschoolers not being required to receive immunizations. Sen. Jeff Tarte, a Mecklenburg County Republican and a primary sponsor of the bill, said it was purposely left open ended on homeschoolers.

Tarte said whether homeschoolers should be required to be vaccinated is one of the things that he expects to be discussed as the bill goes through the legislative process.

“This was never intended to be mandated or dictated by two or three people,” Tarte said. “It’s to open a dialogue to set good public health policy. This is the outline and the blueprint for that.”

Sen. Tamara Barringer, a Cary Republican and another bill primary sponsor, agreed that homeschooling is just one of the many issues about the legislation that deserve to be aired out in public.

“What we really are looking for is good public conversation to come up with a very viable solution for what’s become a public health situation,” Barringer said.

Much of the media coverage has focused on how the bill would repeal a law that exempts children from vaccinations if their parents or guardians object for “bona fide religious beliefs.” But the bill’s wording has what could become a loophole for parents who don't want vaccinations.

Of the state's 60,950 registered home schools, 62 percent classify themselves as religious based.

“If you can make a case for true religious exemptions, we need to find a way to address that,” Tarte said.

But Tarte added that “the God I know doesn’t want children to die unnecessarily.”

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