Brett Molina USA TODAY
Published 8:54 p.m. UTC Jun 13, 2018
An increase in the number of parents are opting out of vaccinations for their kids non-medical reasons is creating hot spots in Detroit and other U.S. cities for measles and other diseases, a study finds.
The study, published Tuesday in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS Medicine, found that since 2009, the number of kindergarten-aged children enrolling in school with non-medical waivers has increased in 12 of 18 states that allow the exemptions.
In Michigan, according to the state public health code, parents are required immunize their children against diseases such as polio, whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria. Groups for children, such as schools and summer camps, must require proof of immunization before admitting a child.
However, a parent can waive the vaccine requirement if they can present a letter stating religious objections to the vaccine or by getting a physician to certify that the vaccine will be detrimental to the child’s health.
Researchers looked at exemptions using data from the 18 states and U.S. Centers for Disease Control, focusing on school years from 2009-10 to 2016-17.
According to a report from 24/7 Wall St. in 2016, Michigan was ranked the fourth-worst in the country for vaccination rates. Its DTap (diphtheria, tetanus, toxoids and acellular pertussis) vaccination rate was 77.7 percent. Only Idaho, Wyoming and West Virginia had lower rates at the time.
As a result, hot spots have developed where the risk of kids getting diseases like measles has jumped because of the growing number of non-medical exemptions.
“As larger unvaccinated populations grow, particularly in highly mobile cities, the potential for vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks grows,” said Peter Hotez, professor at Baylor College of Medicine and co-editor-in-chief of PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases; and Melissa Nolan, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of South Carolina, in a joint statement.
The rise in unvaccinated children stems from a discredited belief vaccines are linked to autism. In recent years, multiple outbreaks of measles — once considered eliminated by the CDC in 2000 — have popped up.
A 2016 study published by JAMA from researchers at Emory University links vaccine waivers to an increase in cases of measles and whooping cough.
The 12 states showing an increase in exemptions are Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah. Six more states — Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Washington and Wisconsin — also allow the exemptions.
The study also isolated 15 metropolitan areas where more than 400 kindergarten-aged children aren’t vaccinated:
- Arizona — Phoenix
- Utah — Provo, Salt Lake City
- Washington — Seattle, Spokane
- Oregon — Portland
- Michigan — Detroit, Troy, Warren
- Texas — Houston, Fort Worth, Plano, Austin
- Pennsylvania — Pittsburgh
- Missouri — Kansas City
Hotez and Nolan said a second study is under way on these areas to learn how to better target campaigns aimed at encouraging more families to allow vaccinations.
Overall, eight of the top 10 counties with the highest waiver rates were in Idaho. The study found the 10 counties with the highest rates “have fewer than 50,000 persons and are located in rural regions of the state.”
According to the most recent CDC data from 2015, nearly 92% of kids ages 19 to 35 months received a vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.
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