A report published on Wednesday in the Public Library of Science (PLOS) Medicine journaldetails the alarming trend of increasing amounts of “hot spots” throughout the country that are in danger of experiencing epidemics of various illnesses that could be prevented with proper vaccination.
The reason for the sharp uptick in metropolitan “hot spots” is being attributed to increasing amounts of parents choosing to opt out of the standard vaccination schedule for their children. Currently, there are 18 states that allow nonmedical exemptions. The Wednesday report demonstrates that 12 of these 18 states have been identified to be at risk because of the high number of parents choosing to opt out of recommended vaccines in recent years. The 12 states that are at increased risk are Oregon, Maine, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Utah, Arizona, Minnesota, Texas, Idaho, North Dakota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania,
In addition to those 12 states, the report also identified a handful of metropolitan areas at a higher risk of experiencing an outbreak because of their low rates of vaccinations. According to chicago.cbslocal.com, these areas include Seattle, Austin, Portland, Phoenix, Houston, and Detroit.
The results of this study are significant, as it is the first time that researchers have looked at distinct states with nonmedical exemptions to analyze the rates of parents choosing to opt out of regular vaccinations for their children. According to Saad B. Omer with Emory University, although national rates of vaccination have stabilized, the states with exemption policies have experienced a higher number of unvaccinated children. However, Omer was quick to praise the state of Washington for its proactive efforts in addressing the criteria to be granted an individual exemption. By requiring that parents be counseled by a licensed doctor regarding vaccinations and their benefits prior to receiving an exemption, the state saw a reduction of approximately 42 percent of people requesting exemption status for nonmedical reasons.
The state of California leads the pack in vaccination laws. In 2015, California enacted new legislation making nonmedical exemptions obsolete in the state. Since that legislation passed, the number of kindergartners entering school each year have the highest rate of vaccination in over a decade.