Vaccine exemptions in Idaho rise drastically

Parents in Idaho are increasingly using personal beliefs as the reason behind their refusal to let their children receive vaccinations that are normally required to attend school.

Idaho regulations allow exemptions for three reasons - religious, medical and personal. Across the state, personal beliefs have become the leading reason behind exemptions, according to the Times-News.

"I think the trend is just starting here," MaryBelle Anderson, a nurse manager for the district’s Jerome office said, reports. "It's been a pretty significant trend in California and Arizona, and now it's impacting us."

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare recently reported that exempted children account for three percent of the school population in the state, but that in central Idaho, the number of exemptions has risen to 65 percent in the last six years. The increase worries state health officials.

"Overall, the number has been fairly stable,” Idaho Health and Welfare spokesman Tom Shanahan said, reports. “But even though we may not see a lot of mumps, it's all a plane ride away. Those traveling can bring it back. There's that concern for the children that aren't protected."

Overall, Idaho’s immunization rates have improved over the past few years. In 2008, the state was ranked 48th in the nation for immunizations. It is now ranked 42nd.

Cases of measles and whooping cough are on the rise in the Northwest, and, according to Diane Peterson of the Immunization Action Coalition, pockets of unimmunized children increase the chance for outbreaks of disease.

"It's a situation where we're victims of our own success," Peterson said, according to "We've been able to reduce the numbers of diseases like polio, but young parents can't see how important that is so they question the need for the vaccine."