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CDC reports the highest rate of vaccine exemptions ever

The number of children who are receiving vaccine exemptions in the USA during the 2022-23 school year has reached the highest rate ever reported. Although anti-vaccine activists may be celebrating this news, those of us who don’t want fatal and debilitating diseases to hit our children find these numbers to be appalling and sad.

The high rate of vaccine exemptions will potentially leave hundreds of thousands of children unprotected against preventable and dangerous diseases like measles and whooping cough.

Let’s take a look at the numbers and try to explain what it means.

girl getting vaccinated
Photo by CDC on

2022-23 USA vaccine exemptions rate

In a report published on 10 November 2023, the CDC reported on the vaccination rate for US school children during the 2022-23 school year. Here are some of their key findings:

  • During the 2022–23 school year, coverage remained near 93% for all reported vaccines. Despite the bad news about the rate of vaccine exemptions, it is important to note that the vast majority of children are fully vaccinated. This is the good news.
  • Unfortunately, the exemption rate increased by 0.4 percentage points to 3.0%. Exemptions increased in 41 states, exceeding 5% in 10 states. Those ten states are Alaska, Arizona, Hawai’i, Idaho, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin. This is an increase of eight states compared to the report from three years ago.
  • The states that had the lowest rates for vaccine exemptions were California, Mississippi, New York, and West Virginia. If that appears to be an odd mix of states, it is because all four restrict religious and personal belief exemptions for vaccines.
  • 93.1% of school-age children received both doses of the MMR vaccine (for measles, mumps, and rubella).
  • 92.7% have received five doses of the DTaP vaccine (for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis).
  • 93.1% have received four doses of the polio vaccine.
  • 92.9% have received two doses of the varicella vaccine (chickenpox).


I think many people will look at these numbers and say that we’re doing well to have the vaccination rate remain about 93%. That number is close to the level needed to maintain a herd effect, that is, so many people have been immunized against these diseases that it is difficult for them to spread widely.

However, it’s getting close — for example, the herd effect for measles requires a level of at least 93%, right at the current vaccination rate for measles.

What is more troubling is that the exemption rate seems to be increasing quite rapidly. It is possible that the anti-vaccine false messaging on the COVID-19 vaccines has led to a general distrust of vaccines. Also, a lot of the false narratives about medicine in general during the pandemic make people reluctant to get vaccines for their children, even when dangerous and deadly diseases are involved.

So this analysis from the CDC is bad news/good news — the bad news is that the exemption rate has skyrocketed, but the good news is that the vaccination rate has remained very strong.


Michael Simpson

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