The proportion of children who are “exempt” from receiving school immunizations is rising as vaccine anxiety grips American parents.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that During the 2021-2022 school year, 2.6 percent of kindergartners in the US had a vaccine exemption, an increase from 2.2 percent the previous school year.
Non-medical exemptions, those based on parents’ religious or philosophical beliefs, are primarily responsible for the rise, suggesting that true health problems are not to blame.
The five states with the highest immunization exemption rates for kindergarten children are Idaho (9.8 percent), Utah (7.4 percent), Oregon (7 percent), Arizona (6.8 percent), percent) and Wisconsin (6.3 percent).
The chart above shows the trend in general immunization exemptions, medical exemptions, and non-medical exemptions over the past 11 school years.
The map above shows state-by-state immunization exemption rates for the 2021-2022 school year, highlighting the top five states with the highest percentages of exemptions.
For the 2021-2022 school year, 2.3 percent of kindergartners with any exemption had a non-medical exemption.
This proportion is an increase from the previous school year, when 1.9 percent had non-medical exemptions.
Childhood immunizations for kindergarten include those that protect against chickenpox, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough or whooping cough.
When it comes to medical exemptions, which are allowed when a child has a medical condition that prevents them from receiving a vaccine, that percentage has remained virtually constant for the past 11 school years.
For the 2021-2022 school year, only 0.2 percent of kindergartners had a medical exemption. A school year is measured from August to June of the following year.
The states with the lowest percentages of vaccine exemptions are Mississippi, New York and West Virginia, all tied at 0.1 percent. California has a rate of 0.2 percent and Washington, DC has a rate of 0.5 percent.
Each state has different guidelines when it comes to immunization requirements for schools and exemption guidelines. While some states may require all immunizations for kindergarten admission, others may require only a few at that time, postponing others to future grades.
When it comes to exemptions, they fall into two categories: medical and non-medical.
Only a handful of states do not allow religious or philosophical exemptions, including New York, California, Connecticut, Maine, Mississippi, and West Virginia.
Exemptions may be for one, several, or all required childhood immunizations. While the rules differ from state to state, in most cases, parents must receive documentation from a doctor that the child should be exempt from immunizations.
The child’s school then reviews and grants the waivers.
However, as the anti-vaccine movement has grown, so has the number of people applying for bogus exemptions, with some even willing to pay doctors to make bogus medical excuses to prevent their children from having to be vaccinated. .
In some states, lawmakers are cracking down on this shady practice, even proposing laws to stop bogus exemptions.
In 2019, California State Senator Richard Pan defended a proposed bill that would require the state health department to review all medical exemptions and either approve or deny them. The bill also created a database to track which doctors are issuing an unusually high number of waivers.
The bill was approved in September 2019.
And while a change of one or a half percentage point may not seem significant, it translates to thousands of children who could become vulnerable to deadly diseases, putting herd immunity to these diseases at risk.
Herd immunity is a form of indirect protection applied to contagious diseases. It is reached when a sufficient percentage of the population has become immune to a disease either by vaccination or by previous infection.
A decline in herd immunity can lead to outbreaks of previously eradicated diseases.
Experts have partly attributed the fall in vaccination rates in the US to Covid-19. And while the Covid vaccine is not required for children attending schools in the US, it is believed to be a contributing factor to the rise in vaccine doubt.
In the school year after the launch of the 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, has admitted that Covid vaccination policies were “counterproductive” and steered vaccine skeptics away rather than currying their favor.
Earlier this year, Dr. Fauci said The New York Times: ‘Man, I think, almost paradoxically, there were people who were on the fence about getting vaccinated and were like, why am I being made to do this?
And that independent streak, sometimes beautiful, in our country becomes counterproductive. And there is this latent anti-scientific sentiment, a division that is palpable politically in this country.”