It’s that time of year again. It’s the time for vaccines, prepping for school, and (if needed) exemption forms.
I have received MANY calls at the office and emails lately about these forms, and I wanted to discuss them and give you some tips to make this a smooth process for everyone involved.
First, let’s talk about the process involved on our end. Getting me to sign a form seems pretty easy and straightforward right? I really try my best to minimize the stress on your end for any follow-up, but every time someone asks me to sign a form (vaccine-related or not) we have to go through the following steps:
- Our front desk has to make the call and deliver the message to me.
- I get the message, and have to review any vaccine information I have for the child, as well as look up the last date of a visit I had with him or her. This can take anywhere from 5-35 minutes.
- I have to look at the form you’ve sent or print the form, fill it all out (not knowing if you want a philosophical or religious exemption), and sign it with the correct and legal information.
- I need to scan the form to have a record on my end, and upload it to the child’s electronic chart.
- I have to electronically sign the document so it is saved in the chart.
- Our front desk ladies have to contact you back (or I email you) that the form is completed and ready to pick up.
I am not listing this to complain. In fact, I really love helping parents and children with this process and informing them about the pros and cons of vaccinations at every age and exposure level. I am not pro- or anti-vaccine, but I am pro the health and well-being of your family and child. There is a vaccine schedule (or lack thereof) that feels right for every child and family, and it just takes more education to ultimately determine that course. I do, however, want you to know that I try to be very thorough for every child regarding preventive health and that your request for signing a vaccine exemption can be a longer process than expected.
So here are some tips for making this time of year more enjoyable for everyone:
Try your best to get the forms to me in advance.
I know you’re under pressure from the school to get these forms signed, and I’m not trying to discount that. And I know summer is a busy time. But if I am not in the office on the day your child starts school and you need the form signed, it creates a huge problem not only for you but for the staff at our office and for me. I have taken many of my days out of the office to print, fill out, and email forms to patients, and it just isn’t fun. I appreciate you having me as a part of your family’s care, but I also need to maintain boundaries to be a good physician for you. So try your best to get forms completed ahead of time. It’s very hard to be a great long-distance doctor, and I try my best to meet face-to-face whenever possible because I think you get the most out of your time with me if you do so.
If you can’t get the forms to me in advance, please fill them out first.
If I receive a blank form without a name, date of birth, parent’s signature, and desired vaccine exemption boxes checked, I cannot legally fill it out. I cannot comply with the statement below without your sections filled out.
“The information provided on this form is complete and correct.”
I receive many requests for these forms in a day, and often times I don’t have some or any of the vaccine history of the child on hand. Though not required, I can get the form back to you much faster if the grid portion of Part 2 is filled out with the check marks in the sections appropriate for the required vaccines. If you are unsure, you can check ‘all.’ But please note that this is probably a sign that we have not discussed vaccines thoroughly enough for your child. See below for more information on religious, philosophical and medical exemptions. Here is the standard form most schools use for vaccine exemptions.
You may not need my signature at all.
Part 1 can be completely filled out by you if you are opposing vaccines due to a philosophical reason. Part 3 can be completely filled out by you if you are opposing vaccines due to a religious reason. From the bottom of the form:
“Before or on the first day of every child’s attendance at any public and private school or licensed child care center in Washington State, the parent or guardian must present proof of either: (1) full immunization, (2) the initiation of and compliance with a schedule of immunization, as required by rules of the State Board of Health, or (3) a certificate of exemption signed by a parent or guardian and is either A) signed by a licensed healthcare provider or B) demonstrates membership in a church or religious body that precludes healthcare practitioners from providing medical treatment to children.”
So you need EITHER my signature or to fill out Part 3 of the form for religious exemption. For one doctor’s opinion on the specifics of the religious and philosophical vaccine exemption requirements, check out this blog post.
For a medical exemption, we either have to have established and discussed a medical condition that makes vaccine administration contraindicated, or have done lab testing (which you can do at any time) to check on the immunity of your child to each of the diseases. This often requires only a blood test, but is not well-covered by insurance. Once the child has record of immunity, vaccine boosters do not need to be administered.
If we have never had a conversation about vaccines, come in for a short visit.
Legally, I am not supposed to sign the form if we have never discussed the pros and cons of vaccines in relation to your child’s exposure, medical history, and research available. This isn’t just me being a stickler. This is actually the statement on the form next to where I sign:
“I have discussed the benefits and risks of immunizations with the parent/legal guardian as a condition for exempting their child.”
If we have had a well-child visit in the last 6-9 months, I usually include a brief discussion or handout on vaccines as part of this process. This would count as a vaccine discussion. You can also schedule a brief 15-minute visit for signing these forms, or a longer 30-45 minute visit if forms for multiple children are required.
I look forward to seeing you and finding the best fit for your child in the wide and often confusing world of vaccinations.
For more information on the WA State requirements for vaccine exemption, check out this link.