Aug 31, 2023 - News

Arizona among highest kindergarten vaccine exemption rates in U.S.

Data: CDC; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Arizona had one of the highest vaccine exemption rates for kindergartners in the country last year, well above the national median and lower than only three other states.

Driving the news: 6.8% of kindergartners in Arizona were granted exemptions for required vaccines as of the school year ending in 2022, compared with 3.7% in 2012, Alex Fitzpatrick and Kavya Beheraj report.

Zoom out: Idaho (9.8%), Utah (7.4%) and Oregon (7%) were the only states with higher kindergarten vaccination exemption rates than Arizona in 2022.

  • The national median was 2.7%.

Of note: Arizona is one of 15 states that allows exemptions not just for religious reasons, but other personal beliefs as well, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Why it matters: Vaccinations reduce the spread of potentially fatal childhood illnesses that once plagued the country, such as polio.

  • While children are generally required to get a number of vaccinations before attending public school, exemptions can be given for both medical and non-medical reasons (such as religious or moral objections), depending on local rules.
  • Studies have found an increased risk of infection from vaccine-preventable diseases among exempt children.

State of play: While COVID-19 vaccination is not required for young children attending public school anywhere in the U.S., it appears concerns over that shot may be fueling broader vaccine skepticism among a relatively small but growing number of parents — though that trend certainly existed pre-pandemic.

By the numbers: The nationwide median kindergarten vaccine exemption rate was rising even before the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing from 1.4% in 2012 to 2.6% in 2019.

  • It's stayed at 2.5% or higher since 2020, coming in at 2.7% in 2021-22, the latest school year for which data is available.
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