Rates of unvaccinated and exempted children on the rise, CDC says

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A report by the CDC published Thursday analyzed the findings of a 2017 immunization survey for children aged 19-35 months. In comparison, a 2001 survey (that used a different methodology) revealed that only 0.3 percent of children have not received shots.

A separate CDC study found that overall vaccination rates for older, kindergarten-age children continue to hold about steady, with close to 95 percent fully vaccinated.

While 1.3% may seem like a small figure, any rise in the number of unvaccinated children is a cause for concern, according to Dr. Amanda Cohn, senior advisor for vaccines at the CDC.

The data underlying the latest reports do not explain the reason for the increase in unvaccinated children. According to the CDC, about 47,700 children born in 2015 were not vaccinated against any of the 14 diseases for which shots are advised by age two.

The number of unvaccinated children is also up from 0.9 percent in an earlier survey involving children born in 2011. Health officials said that was a surprise because a government program pays for vaccines for uninsured children.

In recent years, measles outbreaks have flared up in several USA cities, mostly affecting people who had not been vaccinated.

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Toddlers living in non-metropolitan areas had lower coverage by 2.6 to 6.9 percentage points for most vaccines compared with their urban counterparts.

A significant minority of them did not have health insurance coverage. Even though that figure is a tiny fraction of the estimated 8 million children born in the last two years who are getting vaccinated, the trend has officials anxious.

Those differences are concerning because uninsured and Medicaid-insured children are eligible for free immunizations under the federally funded Vaccines for Children program. About 7 percent of uninsured children did not receive vaccinations, compared to 0.8 percent of children with private insurance.

Eighteen states allow parents to exempt their children from vaccines if they cite religious or philosophical beliefs. This past school year was the third consecutive one that saw a "slight increase" in the overall proportion of kids with an exemption, the report says.

"Clusters of refusal overlap clusters of outbreaks", Saad B. Omer, a professor of global health and epidemiology and pediatrics at Emory University, previously told CNN. Some believe that it stems from the choice of the parents who do not wish to have their kids vaccinated.

In the 2017-2018 school year, 2.2 percent of US kindergartners were exempted from one or more vaccines, up from 2 percent in the 2016-2017 school year, and from 1.9 percent in the 2015-2016 school year, according to the CDC report.

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