For the 2013-2014 school year, 83.3 percent of Washington kindergarteners had all the vaccines required for school entry—a 2.2 percent decrease from the previous school year.
Although most kindergarteners came to school vaccinated and protected from preventable diseases, the slight decline in fully immunized kids is a concern to state health officials.
“Parents need to ensure their kids are vaccinated to keep them safe,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman.
It’s unclear why the immunization coverage rate dropped, as rates for the previous two years had steadily increased.
The Department of Health is looking at some possible contributing factors, such as how schools determine a student’s immunization status and how they report that information. This will help determine whether the cause is due to a change in the way schools measure data or if there actually are fewer kids meeting the requirements.
Parents are allowed to get an exemption from vaccine requirements under certain conditions: a medical condition, personal beliefs, religious beliefs or membership in a religious body that does not allow medical treatment.
State law requires parents to have a health care provider sign the exemption form when a medical, personal or religious exemption is claimed.
“It’s important for parents to know the consequences when they skip or delay vaccines for their kids,” said Wiesman.
“Children who aren’t fully immunized are likely to be excluded from school during an outbreak, they may become seriously ill and risk death, and may get someone sick who’s unable to get vaccinated,” he explained.
Washington provides all recommended vaccines at no cost for kids through age 18, available from health care providers across the state. Although providers may charge an office-visit fee and an administration fee for the vaccine, a family that can’t afford to pay can ask that the administration fee be waived.