In the United States, vaccine exemption levels for kindergarteners are low for most states and infant vaccination rates are high nationally, according to a report in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publication, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Friday.
Nationally, exemption levels remain low with a median level of 1.7 percent. However, state exemption levels ranged from a low of less than 0.1 percent in Mississippi to a high of 6.5 percent in Idaho.
According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Idaho allows immunization exemptions for religious, medical, or philosophical reasons. Of the 6.5% of Idaho’s kindergarteners with an exemption on file, 5.6% were for philosophical reasons, while 0.3% were medical and 0.6% were religious exemptions.
The high exemption rate is concerning for public health and school officials, along with parents of children attending schools. “Having a high percentage of students who are not fully protected from preventable diseases is concerning, especially for other children who cannot receive vaccine protection because of medical conditions,” says Dr. Christine Hahn M.D., Idaho Public Health Medical Director. “Many parents sign an exemption for convenience; it may be the path of least resistance when registering a child for school who is behind on their vaccine schedule. However, that path can lead to serious illness to their children or classmates. We believe Idaho can do better.”
The individual vaccine series with the highest exemption rate is the two shot series for Varicella, or chicken pox, which 88.1% of Idaho kindergarten students are protected from.
The Idaho Immunization Program continues to work with healthcare providers, Idaho public health districts and schools to increase vaccination rates to protect children.