Bonner County ranks second in nation for vaccine exemptions

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

A recent study places Bonner County among the highest rates in the nation for parents opting kindergarten-age children out of vaccinations. 

Courtesy freestock.

Published in the peer-reviewed, open-access journal PLOS Medicine, the study examines vaccine exemption rates for “philosophical-belief” reasons in 12 of the 18 states that allow it: Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah. 

The study, based on 2016-17 statistics, found that Bonner County ranks second in the nation for exemption rates at 19.6 percent. Only Camas County in Idaho outranked the North Idaho region at 26.7 percent, good enough for a number-one spot. Other Idaho counties that made the top 10 include Valley County with 18.2 percent at third, Custer County with 17.1 percent at fourth, Idaho County with 16.1 percent at fifth, Boise County with 15.6 percent at seventh, Kootenai County with 14.9 percent and eighth and Boundary County with 14.6 percent at ninth. 

According to Idaho Education News, vaccination rates below 90 percent are of particular concern to public health agencies. That’s because a 90-percent rate is the medically-accepted level at which herd immunity provides community-wide protection. Because diseases cannot establish a foothold to incubate and spread, both the vaccinated and unvaccinated, some of whom remain so by medical necessity, are protected. 

Altogether, Idaho has a vaccination exemption rate of 6.2 percent, one of the highest in the nation. In addition to allowing for medical exemptions, Idaho also permits religious- and philosophical-based exemptions, which contribute to the higher figures. According to Idaho Education News, the submission of a two-page form is the only requirement to declare an exemption. 

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