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Religious Exemption Rate for Vaccination Up in 2017 to 2018

Number of religious exemptions increased after personal belief exemption eliminated in Vermont

MONDAY, Nov. 4, 2019 (HealthDay News) — The rate of religious exemptions for vaccination among kindergartners is associated with the availability of personal belief exemptions, according to a study published online Nov. 4 in Pediatrics.

Joshua T.B. Williams, M.D., from Denver Health Medical Center, and colleagues analyzed data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on exemptions for children entering kindergarten from 2011 to 2018, including 295 state-years. The mean proportion of kindergartners with religious exemptions in states allowing nonmedical exemptions was compared to the proportion seen in states with religious exemptions only.

The researchers found that compared with states with religious exemptions only, states with religious and personal belief exemptions were significantly less likely to have kindergartners with religious exemptions (risk ratio, 0.25). The mean proportion of kindergartners with a religious exemption increased from 0.5 to 3.7 percent after Vermont’s 2016 policy change that eliminated the personal belief exemption. Compared with the 2011 to 2012 school year, during the 2017 to 2018 school year, states were significantly more likely to have kindergartners with religious exemptions.

“Researchers should study individual-level behaviors to determine why religious exemption rates might change with personal belief exemption availability, document whether parents choose religious exemptions in the absence of a personal belief alternative, and differentiate religious from spiritual concerns,” the authors write.

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