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.