Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder’s Legislative Column for Oct. 21, 2022

The Truth About Vaccines

There’s an old saying that holds “bad information can travel halfway around the world before the truth puts on its shoes.” We don’t know who first said that, but we saw a great example this week with claims the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would require COVID vaccinations for children. And further, that kids would not be able to attend school if they didn’t get the shot.

The statements were wrong. Full stop.

Whatever your opinion is about the CDC, it’s important to understand the federal agency can’t require children to be immunized. The CDC may eventually add the COVID vaccine to its list of recommended childhood immunizations, but that still doesn’t make the shot mandatory here in Missouri.

Decisions about which vaccines are required before a child can attend school in Missouri are made by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), in consultation with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). These requirements only happen with authority granted by the Missouri Legislature. And that’s not going to happen.

Currently, immunizations are required for rubella, measles, mumps, chicken pox, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis B and a few other diseases, but parents may opt out for religious objections. The General Assembly has also instructed DHSS to prepare informational brochures regarding other CDC-recommended vaccines — human papillomavirus infection (HPV), for example — but those shots are not required for a child to attend school.

Let me state this again: a COVID vaccination is NOT required for a child to attend school in Missouri. Regardless of what the CDC decides to recommend, it’s up to the Legislature and DHSS to require it. I just don’t see that happening.

If you would like accurate information about childhood immunizations, please talk to your medical provider or ask the folks at your child’s school. They know what shots your child needs. You can also find a list of required vaccinations online at

Contact Me

I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Holly Thompson Rehder, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Rm 433, Jefferson City, MO 65101, send an email to or visit