New report focuses on Idaho anti-vaccine ‘hotspots’

A new scholarly study casts Idaho vaccination numbers in a new and troubling light.

Eight Idaho counties rank among the nation’s top 10 anti-vaccine “hotspots:” areas where high numbers of kindergarten students show up without vaccinations.

The root cause: state laws, in Idaho and elsewhere, that allow parents to opt their children out of vaccinations for philosophical or religious reasons, in addition to medical reasons. As the report’s authors note, higher opt-out rates put children at risk of a communicable disease.

Using 2016-17 numbers, the report looks at “non-medical” opt-out rates for kindergartners. The Idaho hotspots:

  • Camas County: 26.7 percent, ranking No. 1 nationally.
  • Bonner County: 19.6 percent, ranking No. 2 nationally.
  • Valley County: 18.2 percent, ranking No. 3 nationally.
  • Custer County: 17.1 percent, ranking No. 4 nationally.
  • Idaho County: 16.1 percent, ranking No. 5 nationally.
  • Boise County: 15.6 percent, ranking No. 7 nationally.
  • Kootenai County: 14.9 percent, ranking No. 8 nationally.
  • Boundary County: 14.6 percent, ranking No. 9 nationally.

Opt-out rates of 10 percent or more represent a tipping point of sorts. When a school has a vaccination rate of 90 percent or more, “herd immunity” kicks in. A higher vaccination rate prevents the spread of disease — even protecting children who cannot be immunized, for medical reasons.

All told, Idaho’s immunization opt-out rate was 6.2 percent.

Idaho’s opt-out rates are among the highest in the nation. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare encourages vaccinations — and in the event of an outbreak, schools can prohibit a student who is not immunized from attending class. However, parents can opt out of vaccinations by filling out a short two-page form, available on the Health and Welfare website.

More coverage of the new vaccination report from the Washington Post.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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