For the second year in a row, exemption rates, the percentage of students exempt from one or more vaccines, increased across all age categories. In the last year, exemptions rose from 3.9% to 4.3% for child care, from 4.9% to 5.4% for kindergarten, and from 5.1% to 5.4% for 6th grade. This increase in exemption rates led to a decrease in vaccination coverage rates for all three groups. Again this year, exemption rates were much higher in charter schools. Data for exemption rates and vaccine coverage rates by county and school are available on our website. Maintaining high immunization rates is critical to prevent outbreaks of dangerous vaccine preventable disease in our communities. Based on data from this school year, in the event of a statewide measles outbreak, over 5,000 Arizona kindergartners would be at risk of contracting measles.
A continuing rise in exemptions is concerning, and public health is acting to curb this trend . The assessment staff at the ADHS Immunization Program Office works directly with healthcare providers to develop and implement quality improvement strategies to monitor and raise immunization rates in their practices. We are currently delivering a series of provider training sessions called “AIPO Train: Keeping on Track”, that provide information about compliance with the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, immunization best practices, and how to use and navigate the state immunization registry.
Arizona law requires that all children attending school or child care must obtain certain vaccines, unless they are exempted by a doctor for medical purposes, or by a parent for personal reasons. Schools are required to collect a copy of immunization records, or signed exemption forms, for each student. Each year, immunization information for all students in 6th grade, kindergarten, and child care/preschool must be submitted by the school to ADHS through called the Immunization Data Report (IDR). When assessing IDR data, it is important to note the difference between coverage and compliance. Coverage rates refer to the percentage of students who are fully immunized, while compliance rates refer to the percentage of students who are either fully immunized OR have the appropriate exemption forms filed with the school. Therefore, a school might have low coverage rates, but remain in compliance with the law.
For more information regarding vaccine requirements and educational information please visit our Child Care, School, and College web page.