Mississippi has the nation’s highest kindergarten vaccination rate. Idaho’s rate is among the nation’s lowest.
What separates these two states — so often neighbors in national demographic rankings?
The answer can be found in the states’ laws. Mississippi essentially requires all parents to immunize their children before kindergarten. In Idaho, parents can use three different types of waivers to get out of immunizing their children. And Idaho schools have no recourse but to accept the paperwork and enroll these students.
A tale of two states, by the numbers
On Oct. 17 — before a measles outbreak linked to Disneyland sparked a renewed national debate over vaccinations — the Centers for Disease Control issued a report on state vaccination rates. The numbers tell a stark tale:
- In 2013-14, 88.2 percent of Idaho’s 23,934 kindergartners had current vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella — one of the immunizations required by the state. This 88.2 percent rate ranked fifth-lowest in the nation. It’s also below the 90 percent threshold that is widely believed to curb the spread of contagious diseases.
- Meanwhile, 1,540 Idaho kindergartners were given immunization waivers — 89 for medical issues; 147 on religious grounds; and 1,304 over philosophical concerns. That adds up to 6.4 percent of Idaho’s student population; only Oregon had a higher waiver rate.
- In Mississippi, 99.7 percent of the state’s 45,719 kindergartners were current on “MMR” vaccinations.
- Mississippi’s vaccination rates were higher, in large part, because parents cannot seek a waiver based on religious or philosophical grounds. Medical waivers are allowed, but only 17 of these were granted.