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Jill Sederstrom is a Contributing Editor
Nonmedical exemption rates for childhood vaccinations appear to have hit a plateau.
A new study led by Saad B. Omer and colleagues found that, although nonmedical exemption rates for kindergarten students increased during the 2012-2013 school year, by the 2015-2016 school year those rates had leveled out.
In their analysis, which was published in Open Forum Infectious Diseases, the authors called this finding an "important shift in trend.”
The study looked at state-level exemption data for kindergarten students from the 2011-2012 school year through the 2015-2016 school year to determine the rate of exemption for each year as well as overall trends that presented over the study period.
The results, according to a VOX article, indicated that although the average nonmedical exemption rate increased from 1.58% to 2.04% during the study period, those rates remained stable from 2013-2016.
Omer told Vox he was "cautiously optimistic" about the data.
In addition to the plateau observed in the 2015-2016 school year, study researchers also found that the nonmedical exemption rate was 2.41 times higher in those states that allowed both philosophical and religious exemptions compared to states that only offered religious exemptions.
In October, the CDC released new data on vaccination coverage, exemption rates and provisional enrollment for kindergarten students for the 2016-2017 school year that also showed stability in exemption rates.
According to that study, led by Ranee Seither, MPH, the median vaccination coverage for DTaP was 94.5% among those states that provided data for the report. High vaccination rates were also reported for the MMR vaccine (94.0%) and the varicella vaccine (93.8%).
The study included data for the 2016-2017 school year on vaccine coverage from 49 states. Exemption data on public school kindergarteners was gathered from all 50 states.
"During the 2016–2017 school year, kindergarten vaccination coverage for MMR, DTaP, and varicella vaccine each approached 95%, and the median exemption rate among children attending kindergarten was 2%; these rates have been relatively consistent since the 2011–2012 school year," Seither and colleagues wrote in the report.
Both studies point to a growing stability in nonmedical exemption rates, suggesting a positive shift in vaccination trends.
"Based on state-level kindergarten vaccination data reported to CDC, median vaccination coverage was consistently high and median exemption rates were consistently low," Seither and colleagues wrote. "However, clusters of low vaccination coverage continue to serve as opportunities for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases."
Currently, 48 states and the District of Columbia offer nonmedical exemptions for vaccines, according to the study in Open Forum Infectious Diseases.