Date of Conferral



Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)




Allison Terry


In 2012, 48,277 cases of pertussis were diagnosed in the United States. Pertussis, otherwise known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious, often debilitating, sometimes deadly, vaccine-preventable disease with an increasing incidence and death rate in the U.S, which may be due to vaccine exemptions. The purpose of this project was to determine if a relationship exists between immunization policies and immunization exemption rates, immunization exemption rates and pertussis rates, and immunization policies and pertussis rates in each state. Bronfenbrenner's bio-ecological framework was used to guide the project. Publically available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), schools of public health, state health departments, and public health officials were retrieved for this cross-sectional, ecological comparison study. Spearman's r product-moment correlation coefficient was used to investigate the relationship between the variables. States with lenient vaccine laws had higher exemption rates (r = .359, p < .01), and states with higher exemption rates had higher pertussis rates (r = .470, p < .01). Finally, states with lenient vaccine laws had higher pertussis rates (r = .111, p = 0.439). This project should be added to the literature used to inform and educate the public as well as influence policy makers. As a result of this study, arguments for eliminating non-medical vaccine exemptions should be strengthened. As policies are changed, social change should follow in the form of decreased immunization exemption rates and decreased pertussis rates.