CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The number of Wyoming students taking vaccinations needed for public schools went up last school year — and the number who declining vaccinations dropped — according to new state health department data.
Health officials note that the numbers of those not getting vaccinations for medical or religious reasons fluctuates from year to year.
In 2013, only 366 students in public and some private schools didn't get vaccinated, down from 458 the year before. Of those who weren't vaccinated in 2013, 19 were for medical reasons and 347 were for religious ones.
By comparison, religious exemptions totaled 294 in 2009. That figure rose dramatically to 708 in 2010, shortly after chickenpox was added to the required list.
Home-schooled students aren't included in the state health department figures.
The agency's Kim Deti said 97 percent of kindergarten students and up to 98.5 percent of seventh-graders had recommended vaccinations. "The vast majority of our children are getting their vaccinations before they start school," Deti said.
The health department specifically looks at vaccination rates for students in kindergarten and seventh grade.
Mandatory school vaccines cover diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, Hepatitis B, polio, tetanus and diphtheria, according to local school districts. Students with immune systems that cannot handle the shots are exempted, as well as those whose parents cite religious reasons.
Both groups had the lowest percentages of students taking the varicella, or chickenpox, vaccine.
Students who don't get vaccinations are tracked in case a school has an outbreak of a disease like pertussis, or whooping cough, Deti said.
Required shots are paid for by the state, Deti said, though doctors may charge to administer them. To get the religious exemption, parents or guardians must sign a notarized statement that requests a student be excused from taking the vaccines.
In Laramie County School District 1, students have 30 days from the start of school to provide proof of vaccinations or an exemption. After that, they are excluded from school, according to school policy, though there is flexibility for longer vaccination courses.