Many summer camps don't require kids' immunization records, study finds

Photo (c) Thomas Barwick - Getty Images

Less than 40 percent of employees are required to share their vaccine history

A new study conducted by researchers from Michigan Medicine found that many summer camps don’t require parents to submit their child’s vaccine records

This report comes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the distribution of the vaccine is being used as a tool to help control the spread of infection. Now, experts are worried about what risk this poses to kids’ and camp employees’ health and wellness. 

“While all states require immunizations for children attending public schools, most don’t have the same mandates for summer camps,” said researcher Dr. Carissa Burke. “Campers are often in close contact and sharing common spaces, increasing risk for illness outbreaks. As we think about reducing the spread of infectious diseases, children in camps may be an important population to consider.” 

Protecting kids’ and employees’ health

The researchers surveyed representatives from nearly 400 summer camps to better understand what policies were in place regarding campers’ and employees’ vaccination records. 

They learned that the majority of the summer camps involved in the study currently have no regulations in place that mandate parents to submit their child’s vaccination records, and that number is even lower for employee vaccination records. Just 46 percent of the camps required proof of campers’ immunizations, while less than 40 percent required employees to submit vaccination reports. 

“While 100 percent vaccination rates may not always be possible, camps have a responsibility to take all measures to protect their campers and staff from vaccine-preventable diseases,” said researcher Dr. Andrew Hashikawa. 

The researchers also learned that more than 50 percent of the camps allowed kids who hadn’t been vaccinated -- and didn’t have medical exemptions -- to participate in camp activities. This is in direct opposition to guidelines created by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has encouraged summer camps to both mandate vaccination records and do away with medical exemptions for vaccines. 

Many of the summer camp personnel that were surveyed for this study shared that they believed all kids and employees should be required to provide immunization records, despite no guidelines currently in place. Moving forward, the researchers hope that these findings can spark change in summer camps across the country, as having all children and staff vaccinated can only benefit personal and public health. 

“Routine vaccination is critical to both individual and public health,” Dr. Hashikawa said. “With the rise in vaccine-preventable outbreaks, future efforts to reduce the spread of communicable diseases should address these findings.” 

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