Immunization rates among Washington state teens worry health officials

While immunization rates among teenagers in Washington state improved for some vaccines, the rates stayed consistent and dropped for others, according to a recently released report.

According to the 2011 National Immunization Survey, more teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 received vaccinations against serious diseases than in prior years. Immunization rates, however, continued to remain below state goals, Issaquah Press reports.

The report found that Washington failed to meet national vaccination goals, including 90 percent of teens for chickenpox and varicella and 80 percent of teens against whooping cough, meningococcal disease and human papillomavirus.

Approximately 75 percent of teens received the Tdap whooping cough vaccine in 2011, compared with 71 percent in 2010. The national average for vaccine coverage with Tdap is 78 percent, Issaquah Press reports.

In September, Washington announced that a law making it more difficult to opt-out of vaccinations decreased the opt-out rate by 25 percent. The legislature of the state passed the law in 2011 after Washington dropped to last in the U.S. in childhood immunizations, the York reports.

"You think we're a cut above the rest, but there's something in this culture out West," Maxine Hayes, the state health officer for Washington's Department of Health, said, according to the New York Times. "It's a sort of defiance. A distrust of the government."

A September study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the opt-out rate is growing faster in states with easier opt-out policies.