For the 2016-2017 school year, 2% of American kindergarten students had an exemption from one or more vaccines, said Ranee Seither and associates at the National Center of Immunization and Respiratory Disease, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta.

Among the 46 states – including the District of Columbia – that reported data, nine times as many exemptions were granted on religious or philosophical grounds (1.8%) as were granted for medical reasons (0.2%), they said.

At the state level, the highest overall exemption rate, 6.8%, belonged to Alaska; the lowest was Mississippi’s, which came in at less than 0.1%. Of the nine states with rates of 4.1% or higher, seven are in the West and only two, Maine and Wisconsin, are in the eastern half of the country, CDC investigators reported (MMWR 2017;66[40]:1073-80).

Alaska had the highest rate of medical exemptions at 1.5% and Oregon had the highest rate of religious/philosophical exemptions at 6.5%. Thirty states do not allow philosophical exemptions, Arizona and Mississippi do not allow religious exemptions, and West Virginia does not allow either, they noted.

Exemption data were reported for 3,666,870 kindergartners for the 2016-2017 school year and collected by federally funded immunization programs in the 50 states and D.C.


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