Immunization rate for kindergarteners falls slightly in Washington

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) announced on Thursday that the immunization rate for kindergarteners fell slightly in the 2013-2014 school year.

A total of 83.3 percent of kindergarteners received all the vaccines required for entry, a decrease of 2.2 percent from the previous year. The vaccination rate for individual diseases also fell in the 2013-2014 school year, including a drop of 2.1 percent for whooping cough and 1.9 percent for measles.

DOH said it is unsure why the rate fell but it is investigating possible causes, including how schools determine and report and a child's immunization status.

The immunization exemption rate for kindergarteners held steady at 4.6 percent in 2013-2014. Parents in Washington are allowed to apply for an exemption for their children due to medical conditions, personal or religious beliefs.

"It's important for parents to know the consequences when they skip or delay vaccines for their kids," Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman said. "Children who aren't fully immunized are likely to be excluded from school during an outbreak, they may become seriously ill and risk death, and may get someone sick who's unable to get vaccinated."

Washington offers free vaccines to children in the state through age 18. The state also covers the cost of the office visit and vaccine administration.