Washington has highest vaccine opt out rate

A national study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday shows parents in the state of Washington are choosing not to vaccine their kindergartners at a higher rate than anywhere else in the nation.

The 6.2 percent opt-out rate is below national standards and may endanger residents and children who are not yet fully immunized, the Seattle Times reports.

State health officials point to two babies who died of whooping cough in 2010 and a 2-year-old in Kitsap County who was diagnosed with the measles last week.

"Most of today's parents weren't around to see how bad diseases like measles and whooping cough were before vaccines helped bring them under control," Mary Selecky, the state secretary of health, said in a news release, according to the Seattle Times. "We've done a good job fending off those diseases with vaccines, but we can't be complacent; we're seeing them start to make a comeback and too many of our kids are vulnerable."

The study ranked the percentage of kindergartners opting out of some or all immunizations in 2009-2010. Washington had the most, followed by three other states with higher-than five percent opt-out rates - Vermont, Alaska and Oregon. The national rate is less than two percent, with Tennessee and Alabama possessing rates of 0.5 percent, according to the Seattle Times.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in an effort to boost vaccination rates around the world, will soon announce a new, local program that will educate doctors on parents’ questions and concerns about vaccination called the Vaccination Northwest program.