Most Vaccine Exemptions Not Medical Or Religious, Say Colorado Officials

Colorado last week published that state’s childhood vaccine data for the 2016-2017 school year. And for the first time, parents and other caregivers can get a truly in-depth view of a particular school’s individual data.

As it turns out, more than 96% of Colorado’s school-age kids are vaccinated adequately to at least meet school immunization rules and nearly 97% of all preschoolers and kids in child care facilities can say the same. That’s a bit higher than the estimated national average of 94%.

Perhaps the only real surprise to come from the Department of Public Health and Environment’s press release has to deal with vaccine exemptions–specifically voluntary vaccine exemptions.

While fewer than 3% of kids claimed a vaccine exemption of any kind, nearly 90% of those exemptions were filed for “personal” reasons, Religious exemptions accounted for less than 7% and medical exemptions accounted for well under 4%.

The Colorado Board of Health requires all schools, day care centers and preschools–regardless of whether they are public, private or parochial–to collect and report vaccine data, as long as the facility serves 10 or more kids. That gives health officials a pretty complete view of what’s going on with childhood vaccination rates.

And, now, they are making that information available for parents and other caregivers to use. “All kids need a safe place to learn and grow, and vaccines are an essential part of that,” said Dr. Larry Wolk. “It’s important for parents — especially those with children who have weakened immune systems — to have information about their school’s or child care facility’s vaccination rate.” Wolk is executive director and chief medical officer at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Under Colorado law, parents are allowed personal belief exemptions but must file a new one at least yearly. In the event of an outbreak, exempted children may be refused attendance at school and can even be quarantined.


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