As the return to school approaches, some states, including Arkansas, are prohibiting public schools from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations or proof of vaccination for students ranging from pre-K to university.
A CNN analysis has found that at least seven states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Montana, Oklahoma and Utah -- have enacted legislation this year that would restrict public schools from requiring either coronavirus vaccinations or documentation of vaccination status.
As of June 22, at least 34 states had introduced bills that would limit requiring someone to demonstrate their vaccination status or immunity against COVID-19, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which has been tracking legislation related to coronavirus vaccines. At least 13 states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Utah -- have passed them into law, according to the document, and at least six of those include language pertaining specifically to schools or education.
Such moves leave public health officials worried about the limitations they could place on efforts to control the coronavirus and emerging variants -- especially if a health department has vaccination recommendations for schools.
"Anytime there's legislation that potentially prohibits the health department from trying to prevent the spread of disease, even if it's putting limits on masks or mandates on vaccination, then it's another step that local health departments would have to go through should there be an outbreak or a rise in cases," Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive officer of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, told CNN.
"It will be concerning that this legislation is becoming more permanent," Freeman added.
In Arkansas, Act 977 notes that receiving a coronavirus vaccine "shall not be a condition of education" and Florida's new law, prohibits educational institutions from requiring students or residents provide documentation certifying vaccination against COVID-19, sometimes described as a "vaccine passport."
In Oklahoma, Senate Bill 658, signed into law in June, prohibits a public school district's board of education from requiring vaccination against COVID-19 as a condition of admittance to or attendance.