Unvaccinated kids unable to enroll in day care without exemptions

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JEFFERSON CITY - Parents will be able to request information from their child's day care centers and preschools about other children who have immunization exemptions this school year.

This new law is part of Senate Bill 341, which Gov. Jay Nixon signed July 1. The non-immunization provision part of the bill goes into effect Dec. 1 and applies to public, private or parochial day care centers, preschools or nursery schools with at least 10 children.

Whitney Zara, a Rocheport resident with a 2-year-old son, said as a parent, she would want to know if children in her son's classes hadn't been vaccinated.

"I think the more information that you have, the better decisions you can make for your kids," Zara said. "We all want the very best for our kids."

Nikki Reynolds owns End of the Rainbow Childcare Center in Columbia. She said her center does not currently have any children who have immunization exemptions.

"I haven't had one in a very long time," Reynolds said. "I did have one probably about four years ago, and that was due to an allergic reaction."

She said if a parent wants to bring a child with an immunization exemption, she'd have to evaluate whether the student can enroll on a case-by-case basis, but the child would probably not be allowed to enroll.

"It would probably be evaluated, and pretty much (we) had decided that we were going to accept a new rule that we wouldn't take any children that are not vaccinated," Reynolds said.

Under Missouri state law, parents cannot enroll their children in Missouri day care centers or preschools unless the children have been properly vaccinated or meet one of these requirements:

  • There is evidence they have started the immunization process.
  • They have a medical exemption stating the immunization would seriously endanger their health or life.
  • They have a parent or guardian exemption.

"I think the more information that you have, the better decisions you can make for your kids," Zara said. "We all want the very best for our kids."

SB 341 has other provisions dealing with the "protection of children and other vulnerable persons." One of which says all public and charter schools must post signs with the child abuse and neglect hotline phone number. The act requires the number to be posted in a visible area of the school as well as all student restrooms.

Sarah Potter, communications coordinator for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the signs are being put up all over the state, and DESE has notified school administrators.

According to the Missouri Department of Social Services website, there are different versions of the posters for elementary and secondary education, and for male and female students. There are versions in both English and Spanish.

Columbia Public Schools spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said as of Thursday, CPS had not received the signs from the Children's Division.

(Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify information about Missouri law regarding vaccinations in day care centers and preschools.)