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Idaho Health Officials on High Vaccination Exemption Rate: 'That Path Can Lead to Serious Illness'

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As tens of thousands of Idaho kindergartners settle in for their first days of public school, the debate over vaccinations has again moved to the forefront.

According to a new study, "Vaccination Coverage Among Children in Kindergarten," from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6.5 percent of children in Idaho kindergartens were exempt from vaccinations during the 2014-2015 school year—the highest percentage in the nation.

The study lists 90 percent of Idaho exemptions were due to "philosophic" reasons, with 9.5 percent of exemptions listed as religious and fewer than 1 percent for medical reasons.

Idaho has repeatedly been given poor marks for its low vaccination rates. In 2011, BW examined what we called an "epidemic of fear," chronicling an organization headquartered in the Idaho Panhandle called Vaccination Liberation, which pushes back against immunizations in spite of what health officials called "a disturbing trend" in northern Idaho of low vaccination rates among school children.

In this morning's Coeur d'Alene Press, officials from the Kootenai County School District said because of the district's 11.6 percent immunization exemption rate they're doing everything they can to increase educational outreach.

"As nurses in the school district it concerns us when parents sign waivers as opposed to getting their children immunized," Dr. Cindy Perry, coordinator of Coeur d'Alene School District Health Services, told the Press. "Whenever possible we do try to discuss this issue with the parents."

At the Idaho Department of Public Health, Medical Director Dr. Christine Hahn told the Press many parents sign exemptions as "the path of least resistance" but, "That path can lead to serious illness to their children or classmates. We believe Idaho can do better."