More than a quarter of a million kindergarten children are entering school without recommended childhood vaccines, and the number of children with vaccine exemptions has reached a peak.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that national coverage for all vaccines remained near 93 percent, down from 95 percent recorded in the pre-pandemic 2019-2020 school year, meaning that around 268,000 kindergarten children are not vaccinated.
Furthermore, for In the 2022-2023 school year, three percent of kindergarten children had an exemption from one or more required vaccines, an increase from 2.6 percent over the 2021-2022 school year and the highest ever has registered the United States.
Childhood vaccines for kindergarten include those that protect against chickenpox, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough.
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For the 2022-2023 school year, three percent of kindergarten children had an exemption from one or more required vaccines. This is an increase of 2.6 percent over the 2021-2022 school year and the highest ever recorded in the US.
The map above shows state-by-state vaccine exemption rates for the 2022-2023 school year, highlighting the top five states with the highest percentages of exemptions.
The states with the highest percentage of kindergartners with vaccine exemptions remain unchanged from last year and remain Idaho (12.5 percent), Utah (8.1 percent), Arizona (7, 4 percent), Wisconsin (7.2 percent) and Oregon (seven percent).
Each state has different guidelines for vaccine requirements and exemptions. While some require all vaccines for kindergarten admission, others may require only a few at that time, postponing others to future grades.
When obtaining vaccine exemptions, there are two types: medical and non-medical.
The percentage of medical exemptions, which are allowed when a child has a medical condition that prevents them from receiving a vaccine, has remained virtually constant over the past 12 school years.
It was 0.2 percent for the 2022-2023 school year, a figure that was unchanged from last year.
Non-medical exemptions include those based on religious or philosophical beliefs.
Only a handful of states do not allow these types of exemptions, including New York, California, Connecticut, Maine, Mississippi and West Virginia.
For the most recent school year, the percentage of children requesting this type of exemption increased from 2.3 percent in 2021-2022 to 2.8 percent.
While a small change in percentage may not seem significant, it translates into thousands of children who could become vulnerable to deadly diseases, putting herd immunity at risk, which It can cause outbreaks of previously eradicated diseases.
Vaccine exemptions can be for one, several, or all required childhood vaccines. While rules differ from state to state, in most cases, parents must receive documentation from a doctor that the child should be exempt from vaccines.
The child’s school then reviews and grants the exemptions.
However, as the anti-vaccine movement has grown, so has the number of people applying for bogus exemptions, and some are willing to pay doctors to make up medical excuses to prevent their children from having to be vaccinated.
In some states, lawmakers are cracking down on this practice, even proposing laws to stop bogus exemptions.
In 2019, California State Senator Richard Pan advocated a proposed bill That would require the state health department to review all medical exemptions and approve or deny them. The bill also created a database to track doctors who issue an unusually high number of exemptions.
It happened in September 2019.
Experts have partly attributed the drop in vaccination rates in the US to Covid-19.
While the Covid vaccine is not mandatory for children attending schools in the US, it is believed to be a contributing factor to the rise in vaccine hesitancy.
In the school year after the rollout of Covid vaccines, more parents requested vaccine exemptions: 2.6 percent in 2021-2022, compared to 2.2 percent in 2020-2021.
America’s top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci admitted Covid vaccination policies were “counterproductive” and turned vaccine skeptics away rather than winning them over.
Earlier this year, he said The New York Times: ‘Man, I think, almost paradoxically, there were people who were hesitant about getting vaccinated and were like, why are they making me do this?’
And that independent streak, sometimes beautiful, in our country becomes counterproductive. And there is this latent anti-science sentiment, a division that is palpable politically in this country.”