Vaccination rates in Whitman County are above state average

Measles Mumps Rubella Vaccine Exemption Law took effect July 2019



Michelle Hyatt, lead nurse for the Pullman School District says most of their students have received all of their vaccines. Nearly 90 percent of kindergarteners in Whitman County were vaccinated.

JAYCE CARRAL, Evergreen reporter

A recent report shows nearly 90 percent of kindergarteners in Whitman County were vaccinated in the 2018-19 school year.

According to the County School Immunization Dashboard from the Washington State Department of Health, 88.9 percent of kindergarteners in Whitman County received all their vaccinations. Those kindergartners were vaccinated for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, hepatitis B, varicella, and measles, mumps and rubella, also known as MMR.

The state average was 86.3 percent, according to the immunization dashboard.

Michelle Hyatt, lead nurse for the Pullman School District, said vaccines are administered by a physician or at a clinic. Some pharmacies will also administer vaccines during certain times of the year.

Hyatt said most students in the Pullman School District are vaccinated. Hyatt said some school children can be exempt from vaccinations.

“All exemptions — medical, personal or religious — have to be signed off by a physician stating that they have explained to them the risks and benefits of vaccines,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of kids with exemptions.”

According to WSDH, the MMR Vaccine Exemption Law took effect in late July 2019. The new law “removes the personal and philosophical option to exempt [school] children from the MMR … vaccine.”

Hyatt said measles outbreaks have recently occurred in places such as Spokane and Moscow. WSDH also states the recent outbreaks as the reason for the new law.

“It is something that they haven’t seen in many years, and then suddenly they’re seeing these outbreaks of measles,” she said. “Many states have actually gone to no longer allowing exemptions.”

Hyatt said symptoms of measles vary depending on the patient, but most include rashes and fevers.

Herd immunization protects individuals who cannot get vaccinated, she said. When a group of individuals gets vaccinated as a general whole, this protects an unvaccinated individual, thus the term “herd immunization.”

“We have a subset of students who cannot be immunized for medical reasons,” she said. “If you have a certain percentage of people immunized against a vaccine-preventable disease, then chances are that you won’t see that disease in your community.”

According to the immunization dashboard, 3.5 percent of kindergartners were exempt from vaccines in Whitman County. The state had a 5 percent average of kindergarteners exempt from vaccinations.

“The families that had an exemption, a personal exemption, for MMR last year, are no longer compliant,” she said.

Whitman County had 6.2 percent of kindergarteners who were not in compliance with the required vaccinations, according to the immunization dashboard. This means those kindergarteners were unvaccinated and were not exempt for medical, religious or personal reasons.

Hyatt said the 2019-20 immunization records for the Pullman School District are due Nov. 1.