But this was close enough to put Idaho school officials on high alert. Administrators realized they needed to have accurate student immunization data — because, in the event of an outbreak, they are required to keep unimmunized students out of school for at least 21 days. For district officials forced to juggle a number of reporting tasks, compiling complete immunization data took on added importance.
So the measles outbreak might have yielded an unlikely benefit, months after the fact. In 2015-16, Idaho’s immunization rates reached a five-year high. In the same way that parents might have taken vaccinations more seriously, school officials might have stepped up their data collection.
Ultimately, Department of Health and Welfare officials can offer up several theories to explain the state’s improving immunization numbers. There is no single cause.
“We kind of attack it on all fronts,“ said Dr. Christine Hahn, Idaho’s state epidemiologist and Health and Welfare’s public health medical director.
Overall, 86.7 percent of Idaho students were considered “adequately immunized,”up from 85.6 percent a year earlier. (Click here to download numbers for Idaho school districts and for the state’s charter schools.) For Hahn and other public health officials — who have been battling to boost Idaho’s lagging immunization rates — the improvement provides some glimmer of hope.