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Study: Religious Vaccine Exemptions in Kindergartners on the Rise


Laws that allow vaccine exemptions for either personal or religious reasons vary from state to state, and a new study found that when personal belief exemptions are eliminated, the number of people seeking religious exemptions increases. The study, “Religious Vaccine Exemptions in Kindergartners: 2011-2018,” published in the December 2019 Pediatrics (published online Nov. 4) examined data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on exemptions for children entering kindergarten from 2011-2018. States with both religious and personal belief exemptions were 1/4 as likely to have kindergarteners with religious exemptions as states with religious exemptions only. The study’s authors found that after Vermont eliminated its personal belief exemption in 2016, the mean proportion of kindergartners with a religious exemption increased from 0.5% to 3.7%. They conclude that religious exemption rates are associated with personal belief exemption availability, and that religious exemptions appear to serve as a replacement when personal belief exemptions are eliminated. Finally, the authors found that religious exemption rates were more likely in states during the 2017-2018 school year. Forty-five states permit religious exemptions to school vaccination laws. Fifteen states allow personal belief exemptions.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds