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Not as many Wash. children opting out of vaccines

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Fewer Washington parents are opting their children out of vaccinations, giving the state one of the biggest drops in vaccine exemptionsin the country. Two years ago Washington had the highest rate of vaccine exemptions in the nation, with 6.2 percent of kindergartners taking a medical, religious or philosophical pass on getting one or more immunizations.

Last year, that number dropped to 4.7 percent according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ranking the state eighth in the country instead of first. Only Nebraska had a steeper drop in exemptions.

Michele Roberts of the state Department of Health said her agency calculated an even lower rateof exemptions, at 4.5 percent. She said that shows things are moving in the right direction.

“We are still high. We are still really pleased about the decrease and think we’re on the right track. But an exemption rate of 4.5 percent still puts us as one of the highest in the nation, and we really would like to see that continue to decrease,” Roberts said.

Roberts gives much of the credit to a new state lawthat went into effect last summer, requiring parents to consult a doctor before claiming an exemption for their child. The law didn’t cover all of last year’s kindergarten class, and Roberts says she expects immunization rates to improve further once new law reaches all incoming kindergartners next year.

Some parents decline to have their children vaccinated because they object to certain vaccine ingredients or perceived health risks, including a widely discredited link to autism.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.