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North Idaho, eastern Washington parents more likely not to immunize kids

North Idaho and eastern Washington share a grim distinction: Both have far higher rates of parents choosing not to immunize their children against childhood disease than either Idaho or Washington as a whole. As a result, health authorities say youngsters in the region are at increased risk for illnesses like whooping cough and measles - in early November, nine North Idaho children were diagnosed with whooping cough, also called pertussis.

"It's a personal choice that does carry consequences, and heavy consequences for some," said Cynthia Taggart, spokeswoman for the Panhandle Health District, which offers low-cost immunizations in all five North Idaho counties. She noted pertussis can be fatal for babies, which is part of the reason that adults who come in contact with babies are advised to get pertussis booster shots.

In the North Idaho Panhandle, 7.4 percent of schoolchildren are exempt from immunization, compared to 3.8 percent statewide. That includes the 6.2 percent of North Idaho children whose parents cited only a personal exemption, rather than religious or medical reasons; compared to 3.2 percent statewide.  In Spokane County, 6.4 percent of schoolchildren are exempt from immunization, while in Stevens County, the figure is 15.3 percent and in Pend Oreille County, 15.4 percent. Statewide in Washington, 5.8 percent of children are exempted from immunization, the vast majority by parents citing personal reasons. You can read my full story here from Sunday's Spokesman-Review.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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