ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Some smaller Minnesota schools and districts are seeing higher rates of parents opting out of vaccinating their children than their larger counterparts.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://bit.ly/1D2jLe2 ) reports state figures show 16 districts had at least 10 percent of kindergartners opt out of vaccines last year, with 32 more schools between 5 percent and 10 percent. The districts tended to have kindergarten classes of fewer than 100 students.
Parents can opt of a state requirement for vaccination for medical or philosophical reasons.
"You have pockets of susceptibility in certain localities where students aren't vaccinated," said Nicole Basta, an assistant professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota. "That could potentially lead to an outbreak if a disease were introduced to that area."
Statewide, less than 3 percent of kindergartners opted out of vaccination last year. Schools in the Twin Cities saw opt-out rates of roughly 1 percent.
The highest rate of 20 percent was found at Prairie Creek Community School near Northfield, which had just 30 kindergartners.
Such small class sizes mean patterns can be inconsistent. The director of Prairie Creek, Simon Tyler, said all of its kindergartners this year are vaccinated.
"We tend to have big fluctuations," Tyler said.
Ben Christianson, an epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health, said the department isn't sure why some schools have higher opt-out rates for vaccines.
"It's something we're looking in to, but we're still in the infancy of exploring what may be going on in these communities," Christianson said. "I think there's different reasons in all the different communities that have the higher rates."
Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com