By Margo Roddy, MN Department of Health; Diane Peterson, Immunization Action Coalition
Compulsory vaccination for children enrolled in childcare facilities and schools has been a major contributor to the longstanding success of the immunization program in Minnesota and in programs across the country. The recent occurrence of large measles outbreaks has served to shine a bright light on the role that non-medical exemptors play in fueling the spread of disease in school, childcare and community settings.
A chart has been developed that provides detail on the variable ways that states implement their non-medical exemption procedures (i.e., the compulsory steps parents must complete to secure a non-medical exemption). You can view the chart at http://mnaap.org/immunizationshelpfulresources.htm
Minnesota requires that the parent obtain a notarized signature to exempt from a vaccine requirement for non-medical reasons. Other states have moved to requiring more substantial steps, including receiving education from a doctor or public health prior to opting out. Meanwhile, California has eliminated the non-medical exemption as an option for their schools.
Statewide in Minnesota, non-medical exemptions for all vaccines for kindergarteners have been stable over the past 7 years, from 1.60% in 2010‒11 to 1.69% in 2016‒17. While the statewide non-medical exemption rate remains low, some Minnesota schools, school districts and counties have higher rates that leave more children vulnerable to disease.
To see a list of kindergarten exemption rates by county, school district, and individual school, visit http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/immunize/stats/school/index.html