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Can A Charter Organization Require Vaccinations as a requirement of Troop Membership?

HIPPA is limited to

A Health Care Provider
A Health Plan
A Health Care Clearinghouse
business associates of these three that “help it carry out its health care activities and functions” (e.g. the IT contractor who is working on the patient data system).

Since your CO and BSA are none of the above, HIPPA doesn’t apply to them.

Covered Entities and Business Associates

The HIPAA Rules apply to covered entities and business associates .

Individuals, organizations, and agencies that meet the definition of a covered entity under HIPAA must comply with the Rules’ requirements to protect the privacy and security of health information and must provide individuals with certain rights with respect to their health information. If a covered entity engages a business associate to help it carry out its health care activities and functions, the covered entity must have a written business associate contract or other arrangement with the business associate that establishes specifically what the business associate has been engaged to do and requires the business associate to comply with the Rules’ requirements to protect the privacy and security of protected health information. In addition to these contractual obligations, business associates are directly liable for compliance with certain provisions of the HIPAA Rules.

If an entity does not meet the definition of a covered entity or business associate, it does not have to comply with the HIPAA Rules. See definitions of “business associate” and “covered entity” at 45 CFR 160.103.


If the CO owns the Troop and they want to verify all members Health Forms are up to date and maintained by the Troop for various events requiring an up-to-date health form the someone needs to look at it. The CO has access to everything that affect their Unit .

There is a BSA Immunization Waiver :

The question still remains if a CO wants to prohibit families that are opposed to vaccinations as a safety to the other Scouts in the unit. If they do permit these families the waiver form certainly should be used to cover the unit. It seems the general sentiment is the CO can make such a rule in this hypothetical discussion.


The CO can make any rule they want to as long as it is not in conflict with the charter contract they sign with the BSA, and I as a parent, can simply vote with my feet if I disagree with any rule. I have never liked the idea of anyone in the unit keeping a copy of health forms, they get lost, they get shown to people that don’t need to see them, who knows what happens to them.


From the COs standpoint, they need a certain amount of medical information. If your child has a food allergy and needs to carry an epipen, they need to know that. You are within your rights to feel that is intrusive but then you probably need to find another activity.


Good point…To add to that, every time a unit goes camping/hiking for a few days an adult has to be responsibly for dispensing medications to scouts with various conditions. We have a medication form a parent must fill out with dosages and times. Some of those meds can be a simple as allergy pills and others can be of a more personal nature which I won’t go into. The bottom line is there are some things that aren’t going to be completely private if you want to be part of the Boy Scouts.


Covid vaccine isn’t studied in children. (I know this is a philosophical discussion on vaccines in general but I’m concerned about covid). It looks like 16 and 17 y/o s will be able to get the vaccine bc the benefits outweigh the risks. I think flying, going to concerts and more will be limited if you haven’t received a covid vaccine.

Religious exemptions to vaccines is over used but it’s hard bc parents are pushy (shocking - I know) about getting what they want and providers acquiesce - physician groups are looking to close this gap. My kids are vaccinated - I’m not happy about them being around unvaccinated scouts but won’t stop my kids from scouting. Covid will be different - I’ll have to think about it. I think it’s okay with these absolutely crazy times for chartering organizations to require covid vaccinations when they’re available for kids. Shoot - we’ve closed schools, state/national parks, Disney land, restaurants - we can require vaccinations.


It seems to me that the arguments about the privacy of health information may be too centered on the legal issue of what’s really private vs the moral issue of taking care of our Scouts’ safety by providing necessary information needed in case of an emergency. It seems to be a case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

In today’s legal environment, the requirement of due diligence in planning and preparing for the safe conduct of an event falls on the Scout leaders. If someone wants to invoke a privacy argument and refuse to provide health info, and then something tragic happens because the information was not available, what has been gained by withholding the information? So, where does the CO prefer to be in a case like this? Most probably on the cautious side.

It’s just common sense…Be prepared.

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A question was asked to ScoutBook’s staff to allow medical forms to be uploaded. Their response was too much liability.

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BSA policy is units are not permitted to store or transmit the annual health record electronically. Unless this policy is changed, Scoutbook will not store annual health records.

As an individual, you may store annual health records for your family any way you like. I have mine scanned and stored on my computers so I can easily print them any time I need a copy.


Yes, I believe they can as they “own” the unit and they can prohibit attendance as it’s likely private property, BUT it would also come with loopholes and risk. One, religious and health exemptions would be the loophole. You can’t someone vaccinate with these issues. You can bar them from being on your property though. Two, risk. I would hate to have the press show up after one of the scouts in the unit rejects vaccinations as he was recently off of chemo. That sounds horrible. The other risk, if the scout or adult who is mandatorily required to vaccinate suddenly comes down with guillain barre or bells palsey can also sue the chartered organization for damages, which would probably be wildly successful in winning that case. So this is really dangerous territory that I would warn all chartered organizations against. Corporations are struggling with this very issue and know these same risks and have generally refrained from declaring mandatory vaccinations.

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@GaryKloncz, you bring up good points. Here’s a question. If a Scout comes from a family that is against vaccinations for what ever reason, do they (that family) or the unit have the obligation to inform parents of the Troop that there is a Scout among the unit that does not vaccinate? While privacy is important, should the parents of the rest of the unit know if a Scout among them doesn’t vaccinate thus potentially exposing them to some type of ailment that a vaccine might prevent? Just like the rights of the individual Scout is important, from a safety issue what about the unit?

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There are a lot of misconceptions here.

  1. HIPPA does not apply to the BSA
  2. YES someone who will be taking your child out in the woods absolutely has the right to Cover their rear by asking about medical conditions.
  3. I was injured while at a scouting event at the Summit, when I arrived at the infirmary the doc had my med form in hand and all the info was shared with the hospital they sent me to. If your child is actually hurt you’ll be glad the leader taking your child to the hospital has their list of meds and allergies.
  4. Tetanus may not be contagious but you can get it from a minor skinned knee. So if an unvaccinated child skins their knee, and washes it with soap and water, and does not get immune globulin in the ER – they can get tetanus. Last kid I heard of getting tetatnus spent 80 days in ICU and could not walk for over 4 months. I would not willingly accept the risk of that happening to any child – so no I would not take a personal-choice antivaccine family’s child out in the woods, maybe a quick day-trip but not camping. No one has the right to impose that kind of liability on another adult, so yes they can require vaccines, even if the disease isn’t contagious.
    and lastly what on earth is so private on the med form, my biggest worry is my weight is listed, The bigger issue IMO – is why are people so worried about the med form “falling into the wrong hands” lets end the stigma towards whatever condition is on there that people are worried about. Yes I need to know your child had a seizure, or a panic attack, or asthma, and there isn’t that much “free hand” personal info on there.

OK - like the start of this thread, that was basically just a conversation about vaccines as applied to COVID-19, I will just throw something out there… when you can get your COVID vaccine do it … do not delay. The life you save might not only be your own, but a loved one’s as well.

(I am probably overly influenced by my Eagle Scout son who is a cardiac anesthesiologist who regularly regals us with sad COVID stories. Last night he shared a story of an MD peer who flew to CA for a family Thanksgiving dinner, knowing the hazards. This doc and another family member got COVID and are probably not going to make it. :flushed: COVID is serious folks…And I will stop here.)


Interesting topic, thanks. I would think the CO could require vaccinations as a safety measure, but I’m not a lawyer.

Also, it’s nitpicky, but having logged too many hours years ago working in the healthcare software industry, it’s drilled into my head: HIPAA, not HIPPA. It’s the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and BSA is not a covered entity under it (though may be under other privacy and security statutes or regulations).


Some US vaccination laws and requirement information

(Can vary by state. Requirements appear to be set by states and local health departments.):

From Dec. 2020:

From ABC news this week:

Pfizer says its Covid -19 vaccine is safe and 100 percent effective in preventing the illness in teenagers ages 12 to 15.

We will have to wait and see when the US government authorizes distribution.


Note (with cautious optimism) that this is not a report to the FDA but a corporate press release of one item in advance of a request to amend emergency authorization.
Conspicuously absent are margins of error and hospitalization rates. Those are important factors to consider when recommending rollout to children. But, multigenerational households might be encouraged.

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To answer the original question, it’s right in the new unit application the charter org signs

This is the standards they have to follow with adult approval:

“The chartered organization certifies that all registered adults: agree to abide by the Scout Oath and the Scout Law, the Declaration of Religious Principle, the policy of nondiscrimination, and the Charter and Bylaws and the Rules and Regulations of the
Boy Scouts of America; agree to respect and obey the laws of the United States of America, and to meet age requirements”

So the idea is the charter org can’t add new rules, they can only check if the adult meets BSA standards. The idea is each council can’t possibly check up on the background of every adult for every possibly item in that list so that’s up to the charter org. Since the charter org has to approve a new committee chair you couldn’t put this on the committee chair.

Imagine the BSA bans an adult from signing up who professes a belief in a heliocentric solar system. it’s up to the charter org to check that all the adults don’t believe in such.

So if the BSA adds a Covid requirement and enables a religious exemption, the charter org has to check for a covid vaccination or an exemption form for all adults. It has to follow BSA rules around membership in approval.

For youth, that would be the committee chair or other adult in the unit doing the same thing. The parents would provide the paperwork needed to meet the requirement or exemption. The COR plays no part in this.

That said, where the rule can come into play is physical access. The physical location could require vaccination to use the facility and that’s different from membership. There’s plenty of examples of units not able to meet at their charter org this year because of public health requirements and others with numbers limits so the whole pack has to meet outside.

As stated many times above, the Chartered org can make additional safety rules than the BSA. They just cannot do anything less. So for example Catholic chartered orgs require additional youth protection training. As the unit is a program of the Chartered Org, they certainly can require more.

The Chartered Org certainly plays a total role in the standards of the unit as it is THEIR unit.


That’s not the interpretation that anyone else has – Chartered Organizations can and do add additional safety measures – our Archdiocese has a different youth protection program for adult volunteers, and requires their own background checks. This is really no different.