You couldn’t tell by looking at them but Melissa Lang Lytle’s three sons are part of a miniscule minority.
“I have three boys age 5, 4 and 6 months. I've never vaccinated them,” the Seattle mother said.
The CDC estimates less than 1 percent of toddlers are completely unvaccinated like her boys. It's more common for children to be under-vaccinated.
For various reasons vaccine fears persist, particularly in pockets of Washington.
But when KIRO 7 compared kids' injury figures, we found riding a bike is far riskier.
As of last month, there were 451 vaccine injury complaints this year. We don’t yet know how many of those injury claims are legitimate. (According to the Department of Health and Human Services, vaccine injury cases usually go to court two to three years after petitions are filed.)
When we compare vaccine injury complaints to other child injury figures we gain some perspective.
The latest CDC stats estimate 223,713 kids were hurt on bicycles; 5,187 children nearly drowned the same year.
Naturopathic physician Dr. Mary Koehnke often talks with concerned parents. She recommends kids receive vaccines on the CDC schedule.
“A lot of the vaccines are for diseases that are truly life threatening: sepsis, meningitis, measles. So, I know that for parents it sounds like a lot of acronyms sometimes, it sounds like they are not real,” Koehnke said. “But I can tell you, from a physician's perspective, these diseases are very real diseases.”
Koehnke believes vaccines are in line with naturopathic, holistic values because they prevent illnesses.
“Prevention is one of the most important pieces to naturopathic medicine. It's one of the pieces and principles that we pride ourselves most in. I feel like vaccines have been really well studied. I feel good about the CDC schedule.”
Miranda Rusler, of Seattle, had questions before vaccinating her 16-month-old daughter.
“I just mostly asked ‘why so many at the same time? And was that necessary?’” Rusler said. “For us, the pros outweigh the cons, so, I want to make sure she's protected.”
Reassured by her doctor and her own research that showed vaccines are safe and effective, she now makes sure her daughter is up-to-date on all her immunizations.
Koehnke encourages parents to have a conversation from a knowledgeable medical source. “I myself, and I think this is true of all physicians, spend a ton, an exhausting amount of time reading research, going to conferences, making sure we're really up-to-date with what's going on and so I would really recommend getting information from your physician.”
KIRO 7's been tracking immunization rates since last year.
This year's kindergarten immunization rates will be closely monitored by the state Department of Health.
Earlier this summer, DOH processed last year's figures from every reporting school district in the state and discovered kindergartener immunizations rates dropped 2.2 percent--and nobody knows why.
Going through the data we found communities with a history of the highest exemption rates for personal/philosophical reasons had an even higher opt-out rate last year, though the state said the overall exemption rate stayed the same.
DOH hopes there was a reporting problem and that rates didn’t actually decrease. This year’s figures will help determine that.