The share of children who are ‘exempt’ from having their school vaccinations is rising as antivax anxiety grips American parents.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows for the 2021-2022 school year, 2.6 percent of kindergarteners in the US had a vaccine exemption, an increase from 2.2 percent for the prior school year.
Non-medical exemptions, those based on a parent’s religious or philosophical beliefs are mainly behind the rise, suggesting that genuine health issues are not to blame.
The five states with the highest kindergartener vaccination exemption rates are Idaho (9.8 percent), Utah (7.4 percent), Oregon (7 percent), Arizona (6.8 percent) and Wisconsin (6.3 percent).
The above graph shows the trend in overall vaccination exemptions, medical exemptions and non medical exemptions over the last 11 school years
The above map shows the state by state rates of vaccination exemptions 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 kindergarteners with any exemption had a non-medical exemption.
This share is an increase from the prior school year, when 1.9 percent had non-medical exemptions.
Childhood vaccinations for kindergarten include those to protect against chicken pox, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, or whopping 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 mostly consistent over the last 11 school years.
For the 2021-2022 school year, just 0.2 percent of kindergarteners had a medical exemption. A school year is measured from August to June 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 vaccination requirements for schools and exemption guidelines. While some states may require all vaccines for kindergarten admission, others may only require a handful at the 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 both religious or philosophical exemptions, including New York, California, Connecticut, Maine, Mississippi and West Virginia.
Exemptions can be from one, multiple or all required childhood vaccines. While rules differ state by state, in most cases, parents must receive documentation from a medical doctor stating a child should be exempt from vaccinations.
The exemptions are then reviewed and granted by the child’s school.
However, as the antivax movement has grown, so has the number of people applying for fake exemptions, with some even willing to pay off doctors to make up bogus medical excuses in order to get their child out of having to be vaccinated.
In some states, legislators are cracking down on the shady practice, even proposing legislation to stop fake exemptions.
In 2019, California State Sen. Richard Pan made a case for 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 exemptions.
The bill passed in September 2019.
And while a change of one or half a percentage point may not seem significant, it translates to thousands of children who could be made vulnerable to deadly diseases, putting herd immunity to these diseases at risk.
Herd immunity is a form of indirect protection that applies to contagious diseases. It’s reached when a sufficient percentage of the population has become immune to a disease either from vaccination or previous infection.
A decline in herd immunity can lead to outbreaks of previously eradicated diseases.
Experts have partly attributed the decline of 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 in the rise of vaccine hesitancy.
In the school year following the release of Covid vaccines, more parents were claiming 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 that Covid vaccine policies were ‘counterproductive’ and turned vaccine skeptics off of vaccinations rather than gain their favor.
Earlier this year, Dr Fauci told The New York Times: ‘Man, I think, almost paradoxically, you had people who were on the fence about getting vaccinated thinking, why are they forcing me to do this?
‘And that sometimes-beautiful independent streak in our country becomes counterproductive. And you have that smoldering anti-science feeling, a divisiveness that’s palpable politically in this country’.
Read the full article here