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Long Story Short: Oklahoma kindergarten vaccination exemptions now highest in region

Oklahoma Watch, Sept. 13, 2023

Oklahoma’s kindergarteners are now the least-vaccinated in the region.

More than three years into the COVID-19 pandemic that scrambled perceptions of routine public health measures and attitudes toward vaccinations, Oklahoma now has the highest rate of exemptions from immunizations for kindergartners, according to state and federal data.

The latest survey of vaccination readiness to start the school year showed the exemption rate rising to 3.5% in the 2021-22 school year. That’s up from an exemption rate of 2.4% the previous school year, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Survey results from the 2022-23 school year are still being processed.

Public health officials pay attention to kindergarten vaccination rates because they are an important indicator of community immunity and allow officials to better target health resources if a disease outbreak occurs. Students with exemptions on file can be excluded from school or school-sponsored activities depending on the degree of risk to the school.

Oklahoma Watch is a non-profit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. Oklahoma Watch is non-partisan and strives to be balanced, fair, accurate and comprehensive. The reporting project collaborates on occasion with other news outlets. Topics of particular interest include poverty, education, health care, the young and the old, and the disadvantaged.
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