Background and objectives: School immunization requirements have ensured high vaccination rates and have helped to control vaccine-preventable diseases. However, vaccine exemptions have increased in the last decade. This study compared New York State private versus public schools with respect to medical and religious exemption rates. Methods: This retrospective study utilizes New York State Department of Health Immunization Survey data from the 2003 through 2012 academic years. Schools were categorized as private or public, the former further categorized by religious affiliation. Rates of medical and religious vaccine exemptions were compared by school category. Results: From 2003 to 2012, religious exemptions increased in private and public schools from 0.63% to 1.35% and 0.17% to 0.29% (Spearman's R: 0.89 and 0.81), respectively. Among private schools, increases in religious exemption rates during the study period were observed in Catholic/Eastern Orthodox, Protestant/Other Christian, Jewish, and secular schools (Spearman's R=. 0.66, 0.99, 0.89, and 0.93), respectively. Exemption rate ratios in private schools compared to public schools were 1.39 (95% CI 1.15-1.68) for medical and 3.94 (95% CI: 3.20-4.86) for religious exemptions. Among private school students, all school types except for Catholic/Eastern Orthodox and Episcopal affiliates were more likely to report religious exemptions compared to children in public schools. Conclusions: Medical and religious exemption rates increased over time and higher rates were observed among New York State private schools compared to public schools. Low exemption rates are critical to minimize disease outbreaks in the schools and their community.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Medicine
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Infectious Diseases