Current outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S. highlight the consequences of declining levels of vaccination coverage. Attempts to increase coverage by banning or restricting nonmedical exemptions from school-entry vaccination requirements disregard children not up to date on vaccination who already attend school and those who are not up to date for reasons other than vaccine hesitancy. We analyze the potential effects of legislative and administrative options to increase vaccination coverage in Washington schools. We constructed a grade-specific model of the detailed vaccination status for all required vaccines and the MMR vaccine specifically for all children in the state's school system. We used scenario modeling to evaluate the effects of potential legislative and administrative actions on the percent of students up to date on all required vaccines and the MMR vaccine from 2018 to 2030. Our analysis shows that eliminating nonmedical exemptions may not be the optimal solution for reducing disease outbreak risk. Instead, focusing on children not up to date for reasons other than nonmedical exemption could have a larger impact and does not carry the controversy that accompanies attempts to ban or restrict nonmedical exemptions. Further, implementing a one-time catch-up period for all children not up to date would increase coverage promptly. Evidence-based policymaking is an essential component of efforts to reduce the risk of disease outbreaks in U.S. schools, and analysis of potential legislative and administrative actions complement these efforts.
Keywords: Vaccination; exemptions; mandates; policy; vaccine hesitancy.