Examining the Variation in Substate Vaccination Data Available at School Entry in the U.S.

While state-level school vaccination and exemption data is used by public health officials to help shape vaccination policy and recommendations, variations of vaccine coverage within states tends to vary drastically. This variation of coverage and lack of substate data makes it more difficult to identify communities that are at higher risk of outbreaks.

In a new study, Erica Street, MPH ’16, Tony Yang of the Department of Health Administration and Policy, and Kathryn Jacobsen of the Department of Global and Community Health, along with Timothy Leslie and Paul Delameter, both of Mason’s Department of Geography and Geoinformation Science, compile and examine substate-level data on vaccination rates in U.S. school-age children. The study is published in the American Journal of Public Health and is the result of a project funded by the Provost Multidisciplinary Research Initiative.

Due to a lack of uniform reporting, the authors used several different means to compile the substate level data, including official data sets available online, formal requests to state departments of public health, and state-level Freedom of Information Act requests. They were met with various difficulties in accessing the data and were limited both by the completeness of information provided and the specificity of the data.

“This substate-level data has not been gathered from across the United States, and we encountered several difficulties in accessing the data we requested,” the authors said. “We encourage the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or a similar entity to take the lead in working to gather this substate-level data. Compiling and examining this data has the potential to help us identify particular communities that are at risk of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases and can impact public health practice and policy.”

Read the full study.