Parents Seek Vaccine Exemptions at Higher Rates for Kindergarteners

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A child is vaccinated against diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus.
Source: Amanda Mills/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The overall exemption rate for kindergarteners’ vaccines rose to 3.0% for the 2022-2023 school year, up from 2.6% the previous school year. The percentage marks the highest level of exemptions ever reported in the United States.

While exemptions rose in 41 states, 10 of those states exceeded the CDC limit of 5%. Idaho, for example, had the nation’s highest level of exemptions at 12%. 

0.2% of the exemptions were medical and 2.8% were for nonmedical reasons. 44 states allow religious exemptions and 15 states allow philosophical (or personal belief) exemptions. Washington, D.C., allows exemptions.

All 50 states require DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis), IPV (polio), and varicella (chickenpox) vaccines, with most states requiring further vaccination for MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) and HepB (hepatitis B). A handful of states also require Hep A (hepatitis A), Hib (Haemophilus Influenza Type b), and PCV (pneumococcal) vaccinations.

The CDC asserts that 95% of children should be vaccinated in order to maintain herd immunity: “Exemptions in excess of 5% limit the level of vaccination coverage that can be achieved, which increases the risk of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. It is not clear whether this reflects a true increase in opposition to vaccination, or if parents are opting for nonmedical exemptions because of barriers to vaccination or out of convenience.”

1. Should kindergarteners be required to be vaccinated to attend public schools? Why or why not?

2. Should vaccination exemptions be available for nonmedical reasons? Why or why not?

3. Should anyone else be required to be vaccinated? Consider teachers, healthcare providers, and other professionals. Explain your reasoning.

CDC, “Coverage with Selected Vaccines and Exemption from School Vaccine Requirements Among Children in Kindergarten — United States, 2022–23 School Year,”, Nov. 10, 2023