Study explores medical exemptions from school vaccination requirements across states

August 30, 2012

In states where medical exemptions from vaccination requirements for kindergarten students are easier to get, exemption rates are higher, potentially compromising herd immunity and posing a threat to children and others who truly should not be immunized because of underlying conditions, according to a study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases and now available online. Nationwide in scope, the study found inconsistency among states in standards allowing medical exemptions from school immunization requirements. The investigators concluded that medical exemptions should be monitored and continuously evaluated to ensure they are used appropriately.

In their study, Stephanie Stadlin, MPH, Robert A. Bednarczyk, PhD, and Saad B. Omer, MBBS, MPH, PhD, from the Hubert Department of at Emory University Rollins of Public Health in Atlanta, evaluated state medical exemptions from kindergarten entry requirements over seven school years (from 2004-'05 to 2010-'11), which totaled 87,631 medical exemptions nationwide over the period studied. The researchers found that, compared to states with more stringent criteria for getting medical exemptions, states with easier requirements saw a significant increase in these exemptions. Their findings suggest that requiring more accountability of both parents and physicians for granting medical exemptions can be helpful in ensuring that these exemptions are valid and not used as an alternative to non-medical exemptions because they are easier to obtain.

"The appropriate use of medical exemptions is important to maintaining sufficient herd immunity to protect those who should not be vaccinated due to medical contra-indications," said Dr. Omer, the senior investigator of the study. "Medical providers, parents, , and state health officials are responsible for ensuring that medical exemptions are actually medically indicated."

In an accompanying editorial, Daniel A Salmon, PhD, MPH, and Neal Halsey, MD, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, noted that "children with valid medical exemptions need to be protected from exposure to vaccine preventable diseases by insuring high coverage rates among the rest of the population. Granting medical exemptions for invalid medical contraindications may promote unfounded vaccine safety concerns." The researchers' findings, they added, should be useful to those responsible for implementing and enforcing school immunization requirements at the state and local levels.

Explore further: Kindergarten vaccines close to target levels: CDC

Related Stories

Kindergarten vaccines close to target levels: CDC

August 23, 2012
(HealthDay)—Most kindergarten children in the United States are up to date on their vaccinations, a new government report finds.

Study: More pre-teens get vaccines when middle schools require them

May 7, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Pre-teens living in states that require vaccinations for incoming middle school students are more likely to be immunized than those in states without such requirements, a new study finds.

More kids skip school shots in 8 states

November 28, 2011
More parents are opting out of school shots for their kids. In eight states now, more than 1 in 20 public school kindergartners aren't getting all the vaccines required for attendance, an Associated Press analysis found.

Recommended for you

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.

Study shows cigarette makers shifted stance on nicotine patches, gum

August 17, 2017
The use of nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers or nasal sprays—together called "nicotine replacement therapy," or NRT—came into play in 1984 as prescription medicine, which when combined with counseling, helped ...

In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control

August 17, 2017
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) ...

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

Energy dense foods may increase cancer risk regardless of obesity status

August 17, 2017
Diet is believed to play a role in cancer risk. Current research shows that an estimated 30% of cancers could be prevented through nutritional modifications. While there is a proven link between obesity and certain types ...

Technology is changing Generation smartphone, and not always for the better

August 16, 2017
It's easy to imagine some graybeard long ago weighing in on how this new generation, with all its fancy wheels, missed out on the benefits of dragging stuff from place to place.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.