The History of Vaccine Mandates in the US Military, States, and Public Schools Dates Back Over 200 Years, per the A-Mark Foundation

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A new report traces the history of requiring inoculation back to General George Washington’s troops in 1777, and notes that vaccination requirements have been upheld by the Supreme Court on multiple occasions.

In light of the controversy stirred up by the recent COVID-19 vaccine mandates for federal employees and various businesses, the A-Mark Foundation’s report “A Brief History: Mandated Vaccinations (and Exemptions) in the US Military, States and Public Schools” takes a modest look at the history of vaccine requirements or mandates in the United States.

The report includes a timeline of vaccine mandates, from General Washington inoculating troops against smallpox in 1777 to the US Supreme Court rulings that upheld state vaccine mandates to California becoming the first state to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for public schools in October 2021. There is also coverage of opposition to vaccine mandates throughout history, and an informative chart showing the vaccine requirements and exemptions for K-12 public schools in all 50 states.

The A-Mark Foundation CEO Steven C. Markoff stated, “Although there have been some recent comments about vaccines for other diseases being required by US schools and the military, we were surprised to learn that the first mandated inoculations were instituted by General George Washington in 1777. We also found that all 50 states currently require vaccinations for viruses such as polio, measles, and rubella for students in K-12 public schools.”

While all 50 states have had mandated vaccine requirements since 1980 or earlier, there are some exemptions allowed. At present, every state allows for medical exemptions; some also allow exemptions for religious or personal beliefs, or with proof of immunity.

Mr. Markoff noted that the new report includes information on two US Supreme Court rulings upholding vaccine mandates, Jacobson v. Massachusetts in 1905 (7-2 majority) and Zucht v. King in 1922 (8-0).

“Given the anger and fear some people have about the government, businesses, and schools mandating vaccines, it seems likely that the Supreme Court will again be called on to decide the legality of the COVID-19 vaccination mandates,” Mr. Markoff stated. “We hope that our report will add to available information on vaccine mandates, which should allow people to make more informed decisions about this contentious issue.”

Other research financed and sponsored by the A-Mark Foundation can be explored at

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Tracey DeFrancesco
The A-Mark Foundation
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