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Childhood immunization rates fall, religious exemptions rise among Missouri kindergarteners

A health worker puts a band-aid on a child.
Centers for Disease Control
A health worker puts a band-aid on a child.

New data from the Department of Health and Senior Services shows that fewer Missouri kindergarteners received their required immunizations for the 2022-2023 school year.

The state requires all kindergarten students enrolled in and attending school in Missouri to receive the DTAP, Polio, MMR, Hep B and Varicella vaccines unless they have a religious or medical exemption. In the 2022-2023 school year, kindergarten immunization rates for all five vaccines, which are required, dropped from the previous year, according to a report from DHSS.

The percentage of kindergarteners with religious exemptions also increased to 3.5% for the 2022-2023 school year, up from 2.7% in 2021-2022. But the percentage of kindergarteners with medical exemptions remained the same as the previous two school years. Exemptions are filed by immunization type, and proof of eligibility must be shown to qualify.

To qualify for a medical exemption, a student must have a certified note from a doctor stating that receiving the required immunization would “seriously endanger the child’s health or life," or a record showing evidence of immunity to the disease. In order to qualify for a religious exemption, a student must have a note on file from a parent or guardian stating that the required immunization is a violation of their religious beliefs.

According to the report, the number of kindergarteners that were reported to be enrolled in Missouri schools in the 2022-2023 school year decreased from the previous academic year by about 2,000 students.

This post will be updated to include eighth grade immunization data as it comes out.

Anna Spidel is a health reporter for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. A proud Michigander, Anna hails from Dexter, Michigan and received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Michigan State University in 2022. Previously, she worked with member station Michigan Radio as an assistant producer on Stateside.
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