A Baylor College of Medicine study about childhood vaccination exemptions that was published in the journal PLOS Medicine this week overstated some of its data, incorrectly labeling the Pittsburgh area as an "anti-vaccination hot spot."
The study reported that in the 2015-16 school year, Allegheny County, including Pittsburgh, recorded 424 cases in which parents chose not to have their kindergartners vaccinated against diseases such as measles, without citing medical reasons for the exemptions. The Allegheny County health department reported that the correct number was 236. Metropolitan areas with more than 400 exempted kindergarten students were classified as hot spots in the Baylor-led study.
In addition, Baylor researchers said that exemption-rate data for other Pennsylvania counties provided to Philly.com and the Inquirer and Daily News for an article earlier this week had been inadvertently doubled by the researchers.
In a statement released Friday, lead study author Peter Hotez, dean of Baylor's National School of Tropical Medicine, thanked the Pennsylvania Department of Health for correcting the errors and said an improved data-checking system was being instituted.
Even with the numbers corrected, however, Pennsylvania still is among the dozen states that has seen non-medical vaccination exemptions rise in the last several years, a Baylor spokesperson said.
Nonmedical exemptions, which are not permitted in many parts of the country, are seen as a risk to public health.