NVIC Vaccine News

CDC Again Reports Low Exemption Rates for Kindergarten Children

By Dawn Richardson, NVIC Director of Advocacy
Published September 02, 2013 in Government


It is back to school time and in most states if you want your children to attend public school classes, you will have to either make sure their vaccinations are completely up to date according to your state vaccine law schedule or submit a state approved medical, religious, or conscientious/philosophical exemption to the school. If you are a parent making an educated decision to delay or decline one or more state required vaccines, you are probably keenly aware of the increased media attacks on vaccine exemptions around the country. 
Since the mid-20th century in America, parents have been exercising non-medical vaccine exemptions if they hold conscientious or religious beliefs opposing use of one or more vaccines or believe their children are at increased risk for physical harm if vaccines are given and cannot find a doctor to write a medical exemption.
U.S. Schoolchildren Have High Vaccination Rates
The vaccination rate among U.S. school children with “core” vaccines such as polio, DPT/DTaP (diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis) and MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccines is 95% and it is one of the highest in the world. According to the Aug. 4, 2013 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only 1.8% of children entering kindergarten have a vaccine exemption for any reason.1

So why are there so many recent media reports trying to tie  "outbreaks" of diseases on parents taking vaccine exemptions while advocating the institution of stricter "no exceptions" state vaccine laws?
CDC Changes Focus from Vaccine Coverage Rates to Vaccine Exemption Rates
The answer partly lies in the CDC’s recent shift in annual reporting of national and state vaccine coverage rates to include a strong focus on vaccine exemption rates.
State and local health departments have been tracking and reporting vaccination rates among school-aged children since 1978 2 and, since 1994, the CDC has published estimated vaccination rates for children 19 to 35 months old.3 The CDC has been publishing these vaccination rates in the MMWR and other forums since then.4 
A curious shift in the CDC’s reporting of kindergarten vaccination rates started in the year 2011 with very little explanation. For the first time, CDC officials began including state vaccine exemption rates in annual MMWR reports in addition to reporting on vaccine coverage rates among kindergarten children.5 Now “outbreaks” of vaccine exemptions were going to be tracked and published as if they were cases of infectious diseases themselves.
In 2011 CDC Says Exemption Rates Low
The CDC’s own June 3, 2011 MMWR cites that “overall exemption rates were low,” among kindergarten children for the 2009/2010 school year with only one outside reference to a medical journal article6 that urged monitoring of vaccine exemptions because there were measles cases in schools where parents elected to not have their children vaccinated.7

Is it a coincidence that in 2011 - the same year federal public health officials shifted focus from vaccine coverage reporting to vaccine exemption reporting - the attacks by state public health officials on vaccine exemptions started in Washington state with the filing of HB1015 and SB5005 to restrict personal belief vaccine exemptions to require a doctor’s signature?8 
If it is a coincidence, it is a very convenient coincidence.  
With subsequent 2012 and 2013 MMWR annual reports on kindergarten vaccine coverage rates also focusing on vaccine exemptions, especially personal belief exemptions,9, 10 more legislative attacks on personal belief exemptions ensued with bills filed in Vermont, Washington, Arizona, and Oregon to restrict vaccine exemptions.11 This occurred, even though annual MMWR reports still published very low median non-medical exemption levels: 1.2% in 2011-201212 and 1.5% in 2012-2013.13

There is No Public Health Crisis To Justify Attacks on Vaccine Exemptions
So where are we now? There is no public health crisis to justify any further attacks on state based vaccine exemptions.  According to the CDC’s most recent report in the MMWR published on August 2, 2013 entitled “Vaccination Coverage Among Children in Kindergarten — United States, 2012–13 School Year,” kindergarten vaccination rates continue to be high and exemptions rates are low. In the CDC’s own words: 
  • "Kindergarten vaccination coverage for most reporting awardees remained high and exemption levels remained stable for the 2012–13 school year compared with the 2011–12 school year." 
  • "For the 2012–13 school year, median vaccination coverage in the 48 states and the District of Columbia continued to be high, with medians of 94.5% for measles, mumps, rubella; 95.1% for diphtheria, tetanus toxoid, and acellular pertussis; and 93.8% for varicella vaccines. The level of exemptions remained low overall, with a median of 1.8%, and four awardees saw decreases of >1 percentage point for children with exemptions in the 2012–13 school year."
  • "An exemption does not necessarily imply a child was not vaccinated. More than 99% of the 2006–2007 birth cohorts who became kindergarteners in 2012–13 received at least one vaccine"
  • “Vaccine-preventable diseases continue to be transmitted despite high levels of vaccination at the national and state levels."14
Take Action Now to Protect Vaccine Exemptions
When a media report mischaracterizes vaccine exemptions, often the news outlet is simply repeating parts of a press release or background paper from a source which supports “no exceptions” mandatory vaccination policies rather than informed consent rights and advocates for the elimination of vaccine exemptions in state public health laws. This presents an opportunity to educate journalists, producers and opinion makers by providing accurate information to them.
If you see inaccurate reporting about state vaccine coverage rates and vaccine exemptions, especially mischaracterization of why parents defend the legal right to make educated, voluntary vaccine choices for minor children, please take the time to write or call the media outlet. Provide references cited in this article and ask for a correction to be issued.
As it gets closer to 2014 legislative sessions starting around the country, it becomes increasingly more important to have as many people as possible in every state receiving this NVIC Newsletter and NVIC Advocacy Portal Action Alerts.  Clearly there is a problem with special interest groups, many of which are associated with the vaccine industry, unjustifiably attacking vaccine exemptions. 
Please make sure you are registered for the NVIC Advocacy Portal at http://NVICAdvocacy.org so we can help you stay informed and educate your lawmakers about how critical it is to protect legal vaccine exemptions, both medical and non-medical, in all state public health laws.


4 CDC. Vaccination Coverage and Surveillance: Annual School Assessment Reports.Vaccines and Immunizations. Dec. 26, 2012. 
8 NVIC. NVIC Advocacy Portal. 2013.

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11 Responses to "CDC Again Reports Low Exemption Rates for Kindergarten Children"
Commenter Name
Posted: 9/3/2013 11:32:57 AM
Me and my husband have already discussed it. If there comes a day (probably much sooner than we think) that we can no longer bring our children to school unvaccinated, we will have no other option than to homeschool. This is not what our choice would normally be (to homeschool) but we would absolutely refuse to vaccinate our precious children and no one can force that upon us Ever! I just hope others are willing to do the same.
Commenter Name
Angel O
Posted: 9/3/2013 11:59:26 AM
I live in Harrison nj and didn't have any problem enrolling my unvaccinated son to preschool , I tough it was going to be a little dificult. I hope it continues like that other wise me and my wife would do homeschool
Commenter Name
Posted: 9/3/2013 12:22:06 PM
I agree with Jackie. We are in Canada and there is more and awareness coming our way on both sides of the fence. If ever, I was put in the position to be 'forced' to vaccinate my child for public or private school, I would homeschool. Maybe this is a good thing as well, as more and more parents make these choices...a community forms...I would be happy to home school along side Jackie as our values and ethics brong us together...
Commenter Name
Posted: 9/3/2013 2:56:17 PM
I'm with you guys! My son is only two but if it ever comes down to it and I'm being forced to vaccinate in order to enroll my son in school then he will be homeschooled. End of discussion. And I agree with the poster who notes that maybe this will be a good thing as it will continue to build communities who share similar values. And the more I hear about our education system these days, the more I consider homeschooling anyway....but that's another topic! LOL ;)
Commenter Name
Posted: 9/3/2013 3:21:47 PM
I have been learning more and more about vaccines and unfortunately it has been after my 12 year old son had already received many vaccines. So my husband and I opted out with the State of Texas, no big deal and when I get ready to take the Affidavit to his Catholic school, they informed me the Nun running the schools in the Diocese had changed everything and would no longer accept religious belief exemptions! I could not believe it. So I had to track down an Medical Doctor who is also a Naturopath (sp?) to get him to do a letter stating he could not have the meningitis vaccine because of health reasons, which we used his eczema and asthma for the reasons. I would not be surprised if these conditions were not from the previous vaccines. Sorry to be so long winded but I am finding first hand what parents are going through, even his pediatrician gives me grieve over not vaccinating. Makes me crazy. But I would definitely home school if I had to.
Commenter Name
Posted: 9/3/2013 5:13:04 PM
Our daughter did not have the hepatitis B vaccine while we home schooled and the doctor agreed that it was not necessary. When she enrolled as a sophomore in a local high school, the nurse told us she had to have three hepatitis B vaccines or be denied a place at school. Each time the vaccine was given and we informed the nurse, she immediately wanted to know when the next one would be given. Our daughter was an energetic young woman and captain of the soccer team. She had the three vaccines in the shortest time possible. She has suffered with severe head pain that has never gone away in these seven years. She also has autonomic dysfunction. At times one side of her body is cold and the other hot. She has fainted and gets very tired. She is a fighter and pushes forward trying to achieve the best health she can. I wish we had known that we could have refused the vaccine. We did so with our youngest and were told he needed to leave school. I sat there tutoring him until they admitted him back in class. Parents know their children better than anyone and love them more. The best decisions will come from them.
Commenter Name
Posted: 9/20/2013 11:04:26 PM
We have waived vaccinations for our children their whole lives. But the colleges now are insisting on vaccines and this too must be fought. You must ask for the office of equity to get your waiver. In particular, the community college system where we live was not allowing any exemptions for the healthcare programs. This is against the law in the state of Arizona because it discriminates on the basis of religious belief (ARS 15-1862). My husband began a process 2 1/2 years ago to effect change. He slowly and painstakingly educated an educational system which did not understand the laws and did not want to be educated. Through appeals to the nursing program boards and college boards, and public records requests sent to colleges and healthcare facilities, he was finally able to get someone to agree that a waiver needed to be activated for students with medical or religious exemptions. Because of my husband's diligence (and this was extremely wearying) there is now a variance in place for vaccine waivers due to medical and religious reasons. The head of the nursing program said to us, "It was the right thing to do," when we thanked her. Our daughter is now in the local nursing program rather than having to go 2 1/2 hours from home, live with someone else, and attend where they said it isn't an issue. You may have to fight hard for your right to remain unvaccinated, but it is well worth it. I am a nurse. I am not vaccinated. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects my religious beliefs. But I was still put into the "Career Transition Program" by the major hospital system that bought out my small hospital. I am currently working in many different hospitals through registry assignments. There is no law stating that healthcare professionals must be vaccinated; they just need an annual TB test. And now there is Quantiferon Gold, a lab draw that will show negativity to TB instead of being shot up with TB garbage. Stay educated!! Work hard to maintain these rights!!
Commenter Name
Posted: 10/4/2013 2:41:31 PM
I have aplied for the religous exempt,with an extensive letter explaining my biliefs, but it was denied,I appealed They told me I have to get an interview with the department of health, on the phone or in person,it never happend!,They aloud my child stay all this year without a definit answer. Now the school told me that the appeal was dennied and I have 20 days to get my child vacinated or can't cameback. I am a single parent with a good Job and can't afford to home school, I have been crying all day,I am so tired of fighting them, the emotional rolocoster has take a toll so I will have to do it..........
Commenter Name
Posted: 10/13/2013 10:00:32 AM
Hey, moderator. That previous comment "too heavy" to post? It's sad. There is a medical tyranny in America, you people are afraid of it. Sad, really sad.
Commenter Name
Posted: 3/27/2014 2:07:31 PM
I understand many people are not having a hard time with exemptions now as far as enrolling your children in public school. What you do not realize is the bigger picture. The government is moving into its next pause of allowing your children to decide whether or not they should have vaccinations. They have practice vaccinating in schools all ready. Look it up. Check out the UN and its laws they recently passed. pretty scary if you ask me. We will not allow a child of ours to step in a public school at all. Homeschooling is not for everyone but if you feel this strongly about not vaccinating… you should start looking into homeschooling.
Commenter Name
Victoria Bingham
Posted: 4/9/2014 12:49:57 PM
For any parent that is on the fence with vaccines, and especially a single parent who feels like she/he is fighting city hall all alone, take a few minutes and go to: www.followingvaccinations.com. All your reservations about refusing vaccines will disappear. Read any of the over 300 personal testimonies from parents all over the world, of their children's heartwrenching lifelong disorders, sicknesses and even deaths, and you will never again wonder which is worse; fighting for your rights for a few days/weeks/months, or fighting to keep your kid well/alive for the rest of his/her life.

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