US Childhood Vaccination Exemptions Reach Their Highest Level Ever

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(Headline USA) The proportion of U.S. kindergartners exempted from school vaccination requirements has hit its highest level ever, 3%, U.S. health officials said Thursday.

Even though more kids were given exemptions, the national vaccination rate held steady: 93% of kindergartners got their required shots for the 2022-2023 school year, the same as the year before, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report Thursday.

The rate was 95% in the years before the COVID-19 pandemic.

All U.S. states and territories require that children attending child care centers and schools be vaccinated against a number of diseases, including, measles, mumps, polio, tetanus, whooping cough and chickenpox.

All states allow exemptions for children with medical conditions that prevents them from receiving certain vaccines.

And most also permit exemptions for religious or other nonmedical reasons.

In the last decade, the percentage of kindergartners with medical exemptions has held steady, at about 0.2%. But the percentage with nonmedical exemptions has inched up, lifting the overall exemption rate from 1.6% in the 2011-2012 school year to 3% last year.

Last year, more than 115,000 kindergartners were exempt from at least one vaccine, the CDC estimated.

The rates vary across the country.

Ten states — all in the West or Midwest — reported that more than 5% of kindergartners were exempted from at least one kind of required vaccine. Idaho had the highest percentage, with 12% of kindergartners receiving at least one exemption. In contrast, 0.1% had exemptions in New York.

The rates can be influenced by state laws or policies can make it harder or easier to obtain exemptions, and by local attitudes among families and doctors about the need to get children vaccinated.

Hawaii saw the largest jump, with the exemption rate rising to 6.4%, nearly double the year before.

Connecticut and Maine saw significant declines, which CDC officials attributed to recent policy changes that made it harder to get exemptions.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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