More Kindergarteners are Exempted from Required School Vaccinations than in the Past

Kent Jason G. Cheng

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Measles cases in the U.S. have soared over the past two years. After ending 2018 with 372 measles cases, 206 cases were reported in the first two months of 2019 alone. Outbreaks like these are mostly occurring in communities with low childhood vaccination rates. Parents are required by law to vaccinate their children before they go to kindergarten except when the student has medical issues or when states allow exemptions for religious or philosophical reasons. Twenty states have proposed new vaccination exemption bills already in 2019. The percentage of kindergarteners being granted exemption from vaccination is growing across the U.S. as parents increasingly request exemptions for philosophical reasons. During the 2017-18 school year, 2.2% of kindergartners were exempted from vaccination. This is up from 1.6% during the 2011-12 school year. These percentages seem small, but in 2017-2018, this was equivalent to 81,000 children not receiving vaccines. Increases in the number of unvaccinated children dramatically raise the risk of more measles outbreaks.

About the Author

Kent Jason G. Cheng is a PhD Social Science student at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and a graduate research assistant in the Aging Studies Institute at Syracuse University. kgcheng@syr.edu.