Whooping cough fuels immunizations for kindergarteners

The Washington State Department of Health released data that shows immunization rates for kindergarten students are on the rise in the state, after an all-time low in 2008-09.

For this school year, 85.5 percent of all kindergarten students in the state received vaccinations, up 1 percent from last year.

According to the DOH, a number of factors may be playing into this rise in the immunization rates for children, most notably the whooping cough epidemic the state saw last year.

"This is encouraging because it means the youngest kids in school are starting off their education protected from diseases that vaccines can prevent," said Secretary of Health John Wiesman. "The health of our children is important in so many ways. Better health in childhood makes it easier for kids to learn, and increases the likelihood they'll live a long, healthy adult life."

The DOH notes that immunization rates for pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, were at 92.4 percent for children of kindergarten age, the highest rate for that particular vaccination since the state began tracking that data seven years ago.

One of the causes believed to be responsible for the state's vaccine exemption rate were a number of exemptions available to families based on medical conditions, personal or religious beliefs, or membership in a "religious body." Out of those, the religious exemption was one which did not require a medical professional's signature. According to state statistics, religious exemptions only accounted for .08 percent of all vaccination exemptions.

Overall, the vaccination exemption rate held steady for 2012-13 at 4.6 percent, mirroring the 4.5 percent of the previous school year.

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