Months after a Disneyland measles outbreak cast a harsh light on the “anti-vaxx” movement, the Obama administration said Thursday that childhood vaccination rates remain high across the country and that less than 2 percent of kindergarteners were exempt from the shot requirements for the 2014-2015 school year.
The Centers for Disease Control reported a national exemption level of 1.7 percent, although states numbers ranged from 0.1 percent in Mississippi to 6.5 percent in Idaho.
All 50 states have laws requiring vaccination for public-school students and provide for medical exemptions, although non-medical exemptions vary from state to state, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Twenty states provide exemptions for those who object on religious or moral grounds, although California and Vermont will no longer allow these “philosophical” exemptions as of July 1, 2016.
Mississippi and West Virginia are the only states that do not permit religious exemptions, although California is set to join them next year.
The CDC said 45 states, plus D.C., were able to provide data on both medical and non-medical exemptions.
A second CDC report Thursday said more than 90 percent of children aged 19-35 months received vaccinations for the measles, polio, hepatitis B and the virus that causes chickenpox. Less than 1 percent of children did not receive vaccinations at all.
“Collaborative efforts are the reason our nation has been able to achieve such high coverage nationally, but much work is still needed to shield our schools and communities from future outbreaks,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
Earlier this year, the CDC said a majority of the 147 people affected by the Disneyland outbreak were not vaccinated, igniting fierce debate around the country about parents who decide not to immunize their children.
The movement is especially strong in left-leaning enclaves in California, where community leaders saw vaccination as unnatural and a health risk being pushed by big pharma.
But scientists said those who opted out had eroded the herd immunity that’s insulated the U.S. from harmful diseases.
Several Republican contenders for the 2016 presidential nomination also landed in hot water after they made comments suggesting vaccines are either dangerous or should be optional. The resulting outcry prompted them to clarify their views.
The CDC said Thursday that routine childhood vaccination will prevent 322 million cases of disease and 732,000 early deaths among those born from 1994 to 2013.