Getting personal: how vaccination exemptions shape herd immunity [article]

Emma R Nedell, Romain Garnier, Saad B Omer, Shweta Bansal
2018 bioRxiv   pre-print
State-mandated school entry immunization requirements in the United States play an important role in achieving high vaccine coverage and preventing outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. Most states allow non-medical exemptions that let children remain unvaccinated on the basis of personal beliefs. However, the ease of obtaining such exemptions varies, resulting in a patchwork of state vaccination exemption laws, contributing to heterogeneity in vaccine coverage across the country. In this
more » ... tudy, we evaluate epidemiological effects and spatial variations in non-medical exemption rates in the context of vaccine policies. Methods and Findings: We first analyzed the correlation between non-medical exemption rates and vaccine coverage for three significant childhood vaccinations and found that higher rates of non-medical exemptions were associated with lower vaccination rates of school-aged children in all cases. We then identified a subset of states where exemption policy has recently changed and found that the effects on statewide non-medical exemption rates varied widely. Focusing further on Vermont and California, we illustrated how the decrease in non-medical exemptions due to policy change was concurrent to an increase in medical exemptions (in CA) or religious exemptions (in VT). Finally, a spatial clustering analysis was performed for Connecticut, Illinois, and California, identifying clusters of high non-medical exemption rates in these states before and after a policy change occurred. The clustering analyses show that policy changes affect spatial distribution of non-medical exemptions within a state. Conclusions: Our work suggests that vaccination policies have significant impacts on patterns of herd immunity. Our findings can be used to develop evidence-based vaccine legislation.
doi:10.1101/500553 fatcat:uaw2nnhh75gxrl43iwpdcffchi