Vaccination Coverage and Exemption Rates

With record numbers of measles cases this year, lots of folks are interested in vaccination coverage and exemption rates.

You are at increased to get sick and can spread diseases if you are unvaccinated.
You are at increased to get sick and can spread diseases if you are unvaccinated.

Even though our own kids are vaccinated and protected, many of us are concerned about vaccination and exemption rates because we understand the risks.

We know that some kids are too young to be vaccinated and some kids can’t be vaccinated, as they have true medical exemptions.

Vaccination Coverage and Exemption Rates

So how are our vaccination and exemption rates doing these days?

Some states have rates of vaccine exemptions that are much higher than others, with rates from ranging from a low of 0.1% in Mississippi to a high of 7.7% in Idaho and Oregon.
Some states have rates of vaccine exemptions that are much higher than others, with rates from ranging from a low of 0.1% in Mississippi to a high of 7.7% in Idaho and Oregon.

According to the latest reports from the CDC:

  • the percentage of kindergartners with a vaccine exemption continues to slowly rise and is now up to 2.5%, up from 2.3% during the 2017-18 school year
  • an additional 2.8% of kindergartners were not up to date for MMR and did not have a vaccine exemption
  • the percentage of kindergartners up to date for MMR ranged from 87.4% in Colorado to 99.2% in Mississippi
  • coverage by age 24 months was ≥90% for ≥3 doses of polio- virus vaccine (92.7%), ≥1 dose of MMR (90.4%), ≥3 doses of HepB (91.0%), and ≥1 dose of varicella vaccine (90.0%), and are all up over previous years by 1 to 3%
  • only 56% of toddlers receive two or more doses of the flu vaccine by age two years
  • only 1.3% of children born in 2015 and 2016 had received no vaccinations by the second birthday, which is up from 1.1%
  • up to 7.4% of uninsured children received no vaccines, even though they qualify for free vaccines under the Vaccines for Children program

This doesn’t tell the whole story though.

“During the 2018–19 school year, national coverage with MMR, DTaP, and varicella vaccines remained near 95%. However, coverage and exemption rates varied by state. Recent measles outbreaks in states with high overall MMR coverage, such as New York, highlight the need for assessing vaccination coverage at the local level. ”

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Volume 68, Issue Number 41 Vaccination Coverage with Selected Vaccines and Exemption Rates Among Children in Kindergarten — United States, 2018–19 School Year

Although vaccination rates are generally high and exemption rates low at the state and national level, it is the pockets of undervaccinated kids that are the problem.

In Texas, for example, although state level exemptions are fairly low (2.4%) and immunization rates high, in some communities and school districts, more than 50% of kids are unvaccinated!

“The importance of achieving and sustaining high vaccination coverage across all communities is illustrated by the 22 measles outbreaks occurring in the United States in 2019, with 1,249 measles cases identified during January 1–October 1, 2019. Most cases have been among persons who were not vaccinated against measles. Pockets of low vaccination coverage, because of lack of access to vaccination services or to hesitancy resulting from the spread of inaccurate information about vaccines, increase the likelihood of a measles outbreak. “

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Volume 68, Issue Number 41 Vaccination Coverage by Age 24 Months Among Children Born in 2015 and 2016 — National Immunization Survey-Child, United States, 2016–2018

Unfortunately, we don’t see that kind of local data in the latest reports on vaccination coverage and exemption rates.

And while we should certainly work to get everyone vaccinated who doesn’t have an exemption, lots of work needs to be done educate parents that they should vaccinate and protect their kids instead of seeking non-medical exemptions.

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