Follow us:


Seattle Times news librarian Gene Balk crunches the numbers

February 4, 2015 at 2:49 PM

Vaccine exemptions exceed 10% at dozens of Seattle-area schools

Scroll down page for interactive map

Scroll down page for interactive map

Whether it’s the measles outbreak at Disneyland or comments by likely presidential candidates Chris Christie and Rand Paul, it seems there is vaccination news almost every day. Just last week, an infant in King County was confirmed to have the measles.

As you might expect, student vaccination rates are often at the center of the issue. We put together a map (below) of King and Snohomish counties and a searchable database (here) of the vaccination exemption rates for all the schools in Washington state.

At least 86 schools in King and Snohomish counties have a vaccine exemption rate of 10 percent or higher, an analysis of Department of Health data shows. Typically, 90 percent of a population must be vaccinated for highly contagious diseases to achieve “herd immunity” — the point where enough people are immunized to protect those most vulnerable to infection.

While these 86 schools are spread out across the two counties, many are clustered in a handful of areas: North Seattle, Bellevue, Vashon Island and Arlington. South King County, in contrast, has very few schools with exemption rates over 10 percent.

You can look up the vaccine exemption data for any school, city or ZIP code in Washington with our online tool.

The data is for the 2011-2012 school year, which is the most recent data set that has been verified by Department of Health analysts. However, 171 private schools and 155 public schools in King and Snohomish counties did not report vaccination data to the Department of Health, even though it is required by state law.

In King and Snohomish counties, 85 percent of exemptions are granted for personal/philosophical reasons, 12 percent for medical reasons and 3 percent for religious beliefs. A curious exception is the Bellevue school district, where more than one-third of exemptions are medical.

Not surprisingly, exemptions are granted more frequently at alternative and religious schools. In the Seattle school district, the Waldorf School has the highest exemption rate (39.8 percent). In the Bellevue district, Cedar Park Christian School holds that distinction.

Public schools with the highest exemption rates are ones that provide support for families who homeschool their children. One of these, the Stillaguamish School in Arlington, granted a higher rate of exemptions (44.3 percent) than any other school in the area.

Although the measles vaccine has been the most controversial because of a supposed (and thoroughly debunked) link to autism, more exemptions were granted in King and Snohomish counties for hepatitis B, whooping cough, diphtheria and polio vaccines.

The interactive map below highlights the schools where 10 percent or more of students were granted vaccine exemptions. Click on the dot to see the school name and the percentage of exemptions based on total enrollment in 2011-12. Clicking outside the dot will show you overall data for the school district.

Also see: King County has put together interactive maps with the most recent kindergarten immunization coverage for every school in the county.


Comments | More in Government Data | Topics: health, schools


No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.

The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.

The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►