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      Personal Belief Exemptions From School Vaccination Requirements

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      Annual Review of Public Health
      Annual Reviews

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          Abstract

          Despite the impact vaccination has had on the control and prevention of many infectious diseases, some parents choose not to vaccinate their children. Although there is no federal law requiring vaccination of children in the United States, all states require evidence of vaccination against at least some diseases as a condition of school entry. Which vaccines are required; how many doses are required; whether entry requirements apply to child care, kindergarten, or middle school; and whether exemptions from vaccine requirements will be allowed all differ by state. All but two states allow some kind of personal belief exemption from school vaccination requirements. This article reviews the history of school vaccination requirements and exemptions, the legal status of state vaccination laws and exemptions, the impact of school vaccination requirements and personal belief exemptions on vaccination rates and disease incidence, and strategies for maintaining adequate vaccination rates in states that allow personal belief exemptions.

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          Most cited references37

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          Parental vaccine safety concerns in 2009.

          Vaccine safety concerns can diminish parents' willingness to vaccinate their children. The objective of this study was to characterize the current prevalence of parental vaccine refusal and specific vaccine safety concerns and to determine whether such concerns were more common in specific population groups. In January 2009, as part of a larger study of parents and nonparents, 2521 online surveys were sent to a nationally representative sample of parents of children who were aged
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            Geographic clustering of nonmedical exemptions to school immunization requirements and associations with geographic clustering of pertussis.

            School immunization requirements are important in controlling vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States. Forty-eight states offer nonmedical exemptions to school immunization requirements. Children with exemptions are at increased risk of contracting and transmitting vaccine-preventable diseases. The clustering of nonmedical exemptions can affect community risk of vaccine-preventable diseases. The authors evaluated spatial clustering of nonmedical exemptions in Michigan and geographic overlap between exemptions clusters and clusters of reported pertussis cases. Kulldorf's scan statistic identified 23 statistically significant census tract clusters for exemption rates and 6 significant census tract clusters for reported pertussis cases between 1993 and 2004. The time frames for significant space-time pertussis clusters were August 1993-September 1993, August 1994-February 1995, May 1998-June 1998, April 2002, May 2003-July 2003, and June 2004-November 2004. Census tracts in exemptions clusters were more likely to be in pertussis clusters (odds ratio = 3.0, 95% confidence interval: 2.5, 3.6). The overlap of exemptions clusters and pertussis clusters remained significant after adjustment for population density, proportion of racial/ethnic minorities, proportion of children aged 5 years or younger, percentage of persons below the poverty level, and average family size (odds ratio = 2.7, 95% confidence interval: 2.2, 3.3). Geographic pockets of vaccine exemptors pose a risk to the whole community. In addition to monitoring state-level exemption rates, health authorities should be mindful of within-state heterogeneity.
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              Nonmedical exemptions to school immunization requirements: secular trends and association of state policies with pertussis incidence.

              School immunization requirements have played a major role in controlling vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States. Most states offer nonmedical exemptions to school requirements (religious or personal belief). Exemptors are at increased risk of acquiring and transmitting disease. The role of exemption policies may be especially important for pertussis, which is endemic in the United States. To determine if (1) the rates of nonmedical exemptions differ and have been increasing in states that offer only religious vs personal belief exemptions; (2) the rates of nonmedical exemptions differ and have been increasing in states that have easy vs medium and easy vs difficult processes for obtaining exemptions; and (3) pertussis incidence is associated with policies of granting personal belief exemptions, ease of obtaining exemptions, and acceptance of parental signature as sufficient proof of compliance with school immunization requirements. We analyzed 1991 through 2004 state-level rates of nonmedical exemptions at school entry and 1986 through 2004 pertussis incidence data for individuals aged 18 years or younger. State-level exemption rates and pertussis incidence. From 2001 through 2004, states that permitted personal belief exemptions had higher nonmedical exemption rates than states that offered only religious exemptions, and states that easily granted exemptions had higher nonmedical exemption rates in 2002 through 2003 compared with states with medium and difficult exemption processes. The mean exemption rate increased an average of 6% per year, from 0.99% in 1991 to 2.54% in 2004, among states that offered personal belief exemptions. In states that easily granted exemptions, the rate increased 5% per year, from 1.26% in 1991 to 2.51% in 2004. No statistically significant change was seen in states that offered only religious exemptions or that had medium and difficult exemption processes. In multivariate analyses adjusting for demographics, easier granting of exemptions (incidence rate ratio = 1.53; 95% confidence interval, 1.10-2.14) and availability of personal belief exemptions (incidence rate ratio = 1.48; 95% confidence interval, 1.03-2.13) were associated with increased pertussis incidence. Permitting personal belief exemptions and easily granting exemptions are associated with higher and increasing nonmedical US exemption rates. State policies granting personal belief exemptions and states that easily grant exemptions are associated with increased pertussis incidence. States should examine their exemption policies to ensure control of pertussis and other vaccine-preventable diseases.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Annual Review of Public Health
                Annu. Rev. Public Health
                Annual Reviews
                0163-7525
                1545-2093
                March 18 2014
                March 18 2014
                : 35
                : 1
                : 275-292
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine; Department of Health Services, University of Washington School of Public Health; and Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics, Seattle Children's Research Institute, Seattle, Washington 98101; email:
                Article
                10.1146/annurev-publhealth-032013-182452
                b85d14c7-6803-4064-9966-a3b4a2ba00fc
                © 2014
                History

                Social policy & Welfare,General medicine,Environmental change,Infectious disease & Microbiology,Public health

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