Aug 28, 2023 - News

California has low vaccine-exemption rate among kindergartners

Data: CDC; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

California had one of the lowest median kindergarten vaccination-exemption rates as of 2022, according to CDC data.

What's happening: Just 0.2% of kindergartners across California were granted exemptions to required vaccines as of the end of the 2022 school year, compared to 2.6% in 2012.

Why it matters: Vaccinations reduce the spread of childhood illnesses — some potentially fatal — 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 nonmedical reasons (such as religious or moral objections), depending on local rules.

Of note: In 2016, California schools stopped granting vaccine exemptions for religious or other personal beliefs as part of legislation passed in 2015.

  • The law was in response to a 2014 measles outbreak at Disneyland, in which the majority of patients were unvaccinated or had an unknown vaccination status, according to the CDC.

The big picture: 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 has stayed at 2.5% or higher since 2020, coming in at 2.7% in 2022, the latest year for which data is available.
  • Idaho had the highest rate at 9.8%, while Mississippi, New York and West Virginia were tied for the lowest at 0.1%.
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