The landscape of childhood vaccine exemptions in the United States

Sci Data. 2020 Nov 18;7(1):401. doi: 10.1038/s41597-020-00742-5.


Once-eliminated vaccine-preventable childhood diseases, such as measles, are resurging across the United States. Understanding the spatio-temporal trends in vaccine exemptions is crucial to targeting public health intervention to increase vaccine uptake and anticipating vulnerable populations as cases surge. However, prior available data on childhood disease vaccination is either at too rough a spatial scale for this spatially-heterogeneous issue, or is only available for small geographic regions, making general conclusions infeasible. Here, we have collated school vaccine exemption data across the United States and provide it at the county-level for all years included. We demonstrate the fine-scale spatial heterogeneity in vaccine exemption levels, and show that many counties may fall below the herd immunity threshold. We also show that vaccine exemptions increase over time in most states, and non-medical exemptions are highly prevalent where allowed. Our dataset also highlights the need for greater data sharing and standardized reporting across the United States.

Publication types

  • Dataset
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Herd
  • Schools
  • Spatial Analysis
  • United States
  • Vaccination / trends*
  • Vaccination Refusal / trends*
  • Vaccine-Preventable Diseases / prevention & control