Vaccines are scientifically proven to be the best way to prevent the spread of many communicable diseases. Yet, through the last decade, Arizona along with the rest of the country has seen an increase in the number of families choosing not to vaccinate their children. A recent outbreak that started at Disneyland created a firestorm of interest in vaccinations, especially since it produced the largest number of cases since measles was considered eliminated from the U.S. in 2000.
In Arizona parents and guardians can choose to exempt their children from required childcare and school vaccinations for personal belief or religious reasons, or if the child has a medical issue that makes vaccination dangerous. We’ve been tracking exemption rates among Arizona children enrolled in childcare, kindergarten, and 6th grade to determine how protected our communities are against vaccine-preventable diseases. In the last decade, we’ve seen exemption rates rise, with 4.1% of childcare-attending children and 4.7% of kindergarteners and 6th graders exempt from vaccines last school year.
Today we posted the reports for vaccine coverage and exemption levels for the current (2014-2015) school year. For the first time in more than a decade, non-medical exemption rates went down in childcares and kindergartens in Arizona! In childcare settings exemption rates have decreased 0.5% this year to 3.6%; in kindergartens, exemption rates are down 0.1% to 4.6%. Exemption rates in Arizona 6th grades remain at 4.7% for the 2014-2015 school year. You can visit our website to find specific coverage and exemption levels for schools in your area.
This good news might be a fluke or in may be a change in the mindset of families. We hope the trend continues next year. If we do, it might be due to the work we’ve been doing for the last few years or because of concerns after the large measles outbreak this year. No matter the cause, public health will keep watching and working to help our state reach herd immunity against all vaccine-preventable diseases.