School Vaccination and Exemption Rates

Are your kids up-to-date on all of their vaccines?

Are all or most of the other kids they go to school with up-to-date and protected too?

Even with all of the new talk about vaccine choice, few states actually let you have the choice to know the vaccination rates and vaccine exemption rates of your child's school.

Sure, you might already expect low vaccination rates if you are sending your kids to a Waldorf school, but are parents at other schools aware when high levels of school vaccine exemptions put their kids at risk for getting vaccine-preventable diseases?

  • Waldorf School of Mendocino County (California) - 79.1% vaccine exemption rate
  • Tuscon Waldorf Schools (Arizona) - 69.6% vaccine exemption rate
  • Cedar Springs Waldorf School (California) - 64.7% vaccine exemption rate
  • Waldorf School of San Diego (California) - 63.6% vaccine exemption rate
  • Orchard Valley Waldorf School (Vermont) - 59.4% MMR vaccine exemption rate
  • Whidbey Island Waldorf School (Washington) - 54.9% vaccine exemption rate
  • Lake Champlain Waldorf School (Vermont) - 49.6% MMR vaccine exemption rate
  • Austin Waldorf School (Texas) - 48% vaccine exemption rate
  • Seattle Waldorf School (Washington) - 39.8% vaccine exemption rate
  • Da Vinci Waldorf School (Illinois) - 35.3% measles vaccine exemption rate
  • Waldorf School of Atlanta (Georgia) - 32.7% vaccine exemption rate

Not surprisingly, there are no Waldorf schools in Mississippi or West Virginia, the two states that don't allow non-medical exemptions. It is interesting that although there are no personal belief vaccine exemptions in Illinois or Georgia, some schools manage to reach such high exemption rates through abuse of typically low medical and religious exemptions.

But this isn't just about low vaccination rates at Waldorf schools.

Clusters of unvaccinated students at schools in all states, whatever their immunization laws, put kids at risk, despite overall high vaccination levels everywhere else.

Arizona Vaccination and Exemption Rates

About 5% of kids Arizona have vaccine exemptions
Non-medical vaccine exemptions have been growing among Arizona school kids. Photo by Getty Images

Vaccine exemption rates for kindergarten and 6th grade are available at the county and school level in Arizona.

The rates are available for public schools, charter schools, and private schools. Vaccine rates and exemption rates are available for daycare centers in Arizona too.

Arizona Immunization Program

California Vaccination and Exemption Rates

Welcome to California
California is experiencing a statewide epidemic of pertussis, which has already led to two infant deaths. Photo by Getty Images

In addition to providing annual summary reports and data files about the vaccination status for kids in daycare, kindergarten, and 7th grade going back to 2006, you can also see the rate of children who are up to date on their vaccinations on a map:

How many kids in your child's daycare or school are up to date on their vaccines?

Although California allows both religious and personal belief exemptions to vaccinations, in addition to medical exemptions, a recent California law made it necessary for parents to consult with a health care provider and be informed about the risks and benefits of vaccination and the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases before getting an exemption.

Although exemption rates are still high in some communities, the law led to 20% fewer parents seeking personal belief vaccine exemptions.

Colorado California Vaccination and Exemption Rates

Check Colorado vaccination rates online
The 'much more' in Colorado shouldn't be measles... Photo by Getty Images

In Colorado, schools have to make their vaccination rates and vaccine exemption rates publicly available.

That's important, because Colorado has one of the highest rates of personal belief vaccine exemptions in the United States.

However, since the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment isn't actually collecting, analyzing, publishing, or reporting on these vaccination or exemption rates, it does make it a little harder to find.

Chalkbeat Colorado has posted vaccination rates and vaccine exemption rates for over 1000 schools in twenty of Colorado's largest school districts, including Colorado Springs and the Denver Public Schools.

Georgia Vaccination and Exemption Rates

Check vaccination rates in Georgia schools.
Measles might be on your mind too, depending on which schools your kids go to in Georgia. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Search by school name or county and find out the vaccination rate and vaccine exemption rate for each school in Georgia.

Because Georgia does not allow personal belief exemptions, the vaccine exemptions only include religious and medical exemptions and likely explains the overall low level of vaccine exemptions in the state.

Georgia school vaccination rates

Illinois Vaccination and Exemption Rates

Check the vaccination rates for schools in Illinois
Overall, vaccine exemption rates are low in Illinois. Photo by Getty Images

Illinois is another state without personal belief exemptions to vaccines, although they do allow religious exemptions and medical exemptions.

That's not true for all schools though. At the Chicago Waldorf School, 69 of 268 students have a religious exemption to getting their measles vaccine. In states without personal believe exemptions, many parents seem to use the religious exemption instead, even though very few religions are actually opposed to their members getting vaccinated.

Resources to check vaccination rates for all schools in Illinois include:

  • Illinois measles immunization rate database for the 2013-14 school year
  • Illinois Immunization School Survey Results (scroll down to the Immunization section)

Massachusetts Vaccination and Exemption Rates

Check vaccination rates for schools in Massachusetts
Massachusetts had some of the first immunization laws in the early 1800s. Photo by Getty Images

Parents in Massachusetts can now look up vaccination rates and vaccine exemption rates for all public and private schools in their state.

The infomation is available from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Immunization Program under School Immunization Data - Kindergarten Immunization Data 2013-14.

Michigan Vaccination and Exemption Rates

Check vaccination rates for schools in Michigan
Michigan is another state with not-so-great vaccination rates. Photo by Getty Images

Whether you want to view by kindergarten, sixth grade, or the county level, Michigan makes it fairly easy to see how many children are getting medical, religious, or personal belief vaccine exemptions.

For example, in Grand Traverse County, home to several recent outbreaks of pertussis and measles, up to 13% of children entering kindergarten have vaccine exemptions, including personal belief vaccine exemptions.

The Michigan school immunization data is not provided for each school though. Like most states, vaccination rates are not public for individual schools.

Minnesota Vaccination and Exemption Rates

Check school vaccination rates in Minnesota
Overall, vaccine exemption rates are usually low in Minnesota. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Minnesota provides information on vaccination rates and vaccine exemptions for kids in kindergarten and seventh grade.

The rates can be viewed by county, school district, and individual school, so you can really tell how many kids are up-to-date on their vaccines in your child's school.

Being able to look at the school level is important.

While in general, non-medical exemptions (including personal belief vaccine exemptions) in Minnesota were low, at just 1.68%, they were over 20% at several schools.

Minnesota school immunization data

New York Vaccination and Exemption Rates

Get school immunization rates in New York.
Exemption rates are generally low in New York. Photo by Getty Images

In many states, although school immunization data is collected and send to the state health department, it isn't usually available to the public.

In New York, the Daily Intelligencer requested and published data for New York City private schools for the 2012-13 school year.

Although New York does not allow personal belief vaccine exemptions, at least 125 private schools in New York City had vaccination rates below 90%. Even more shocking, 37 schools had vaccination rates below 70% and 9 schools had rates between 18 and 41%. It is hard to believe that you can get vaccination rates that low with just medical and religious exemptions, especially when New York typically doesn't make it easy to get a religious vaccine exemption.

A USA Today report included even more public and private schools in New York state.

Texas Vaccination and Exemption Rates

Get immunization rates in Texas schools.
Some school districts west of Austin have higher vaccine exemption rates than the rest of the state. Photo by Getty Images

Texas vaccine exemption rates are not formally available to the public, but were made available by a number of media outlets:

  • ABC 13 - What are the vaccination rates in Texas school districts? (includes a link to a full database of Texas schools, vaccination rates, and exemption rates)
  • Texas Tribune - See Vaccine Exemptions in Texas by School District (includes an online database you can search)

As in some other states, a new law that is being proposed in Texas that would make vaccination rates and vaccine exemption rates available to the public.

Vermont Vaccination and Exemption Rates

Get immunization rates for schools in Vermont.
With high vaccine exemption rates in Vermont, they are at risk for measles outbreaks. Photo by Getty Images

Vermont provides both vaccination rates and exemption rates for public and private schools each year:

  • 2013-14 Aggregate Immunization Rates by School (the file with the vaccination rates)
  • 2013-14 Statewide Immunization Data (the file with the exemption rates)

Vermont Immunization Surveillance and School Data

Washington Vaccination and Exemption Rates

Get immunization rates for schools in Washington.
Washington has been home to several measles outbreaks the last few years. Photo by Getty Images

Washington state provides school immunization and exemption rates, including state-level rates, county-level rates, and school district level rates.

They also include graphs and maps, but do not include any information on individual schools.

Washington school immunization status data reports

The Seattle Times recently did a report on Washington vaccine exemption rates using data from the 2011-12 school year to generate a report searchable by school name, city, or zip code.

Other State Vaccination and Exemption Rates

Check immunization rates in schools in many states in the country.
Can you check the immunization rates and vaccine exemption rates in your state?. Photo by Getty Images

A USA Today report allows you to search for elementary school immunization rates and exemption for schools in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

Publicize School Vaccination Rates and Exemption Rates

Although many people want to remove philosophical exemptions for vaccines and strengthening both religious and medical exemptions (many parents seem to just claim medical or religious vaccine exemptions when philosophical exemptions aren't an option), making vaccine rates public and easily available for each and every school in every state is something that should be done as soon as possible to help boost community immunity.

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