immuAs we kick off our annual Immunization Conference this week, we have some exciting news to share. The proportion of children exempt from vaccines in Arizona continues to decrease slightly compared to last year.

Every year, state and local public health staff work with schools to gather immunization and coverage reports for children enrolled in childcare, kindergarten, and sixth grade so we can see how protected our communities are against vaccine-preventable diseases. For the second year in a row, we’ve seen a small decrease in the percent of kids who aren’t covered from these dangerous diseases.

Our biggest decrease occurred among sixth graders. The data shows 4.7 percent of those children were exempt from one or more vaccines last school year; while 4.4 percent are exempt this school year. You can check out vaccine coverage and exemption levels in your county or your child’s school or childcare center on our website and review trends in immunization coverage for school-aged kids over the last several years.

Vaccines are critical to preventing many dangerous diseases. They protect not only the person who is vaccinated, but also the community by making it more difficult for diseases to take hold and spread outbreaks (you can read more about community immunity here). Reviewing vaccine exemption and coverage levels allows public health to target communities who are most at risk of outbreaks by ensuring vaccines are available and educating parents and healthcare providers about the importance of vaccination.

At our annual conference this week, we’ll discuss best practices for improving vaccine coverage levels across Arizona and protecting our communities from vaccine-preventable diseases.