Nearly a quarter of a million kindergartners are at risk of measles because of decreased vaccination coverage during the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC, in a report published Thursday, found that 93% of kindergarten children were aware of state-required vaccines during the 2021-22 school year, down 2% from 2019-20.
“Although this may not seem significant, it does mean that approximately 250,000 kindergarteners are likely to be unemployed,” Dr. Georgina Peacock, chief of immunization services at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said during a call with reporters Thursday. be protected against measles.
“We know that measles, mumps and rubella vaccination coverage for kindergarten children is the lowest in more than a decade,” Peacock said.
In kindergarten, vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella is required; Smallpox; poliomyelitis; diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough. The measles, mumps and rubella vaccination rate was 93.5% during the 2021-22 school year, which is below the target coverage of 95% to prevent an outbreak.
An ongoing measles outbreak in Columbus, Ohio, has affected 83 children, 33 of whom have been hospitalized. None of the children died. The vast majority of children, 78, have not been vaccinated.
“These outbreaks harm children and cause significant disruptions to their opportunities to learn, grow, and thrive,” said Dr. Sean O’Leary, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Diseases. “This is troubling and should be a call to action for all of us.”
The CDC report looked at whether kindergartners received the second dose of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Two doses are 97% effective at preventing disease, and one dose is 93% effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Measles is a highly contagious virus that spreads when someone coughs or sneezes and contaminates the air, where the virus can persist for up to two hours. It can also spread when a person touches a contaminated surface and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.
The virus is so contagious that one person can spread the virus to 90% of people close to them who don’t have immunity through vaccination or previous infection, according to the CDC.
Measles can be dangerous for children younger than 5, adults older than 20, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.
About 1 in 5 unvaccinated people who get it are hospitalized. About 1 in 20 children develop pneumonia, and 1 in 1,000 children develop brain swelling that can cause disabilities. Symptoms begin with a high fever, cough, runny nose, and red eyes. White spots appear in the mouth after two to three days, and a rash appears on the body.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said disruptions to schools and the health care system during the Covid pandemic are largely responsible for the low vaccination rates.
“We know that the pandemic has already disrupted healthcare systems,” Peacock said. “Part of it is that wellness baby visits may have been missed and people are still trying to catch up on quality baby care visits.”
“We know that schools have a lot of things to focus on and in some cases they may not have been able to collect all that documentation about vaccinations,” Peacock said. “Or because the kids have been home for so much of the pandemic, maybe that wasn’t the focus while they were focused on testing and doing all the other stuff related to the pandemic.”
In a separate report published Thursday, the CDC found that coverage of what are known as the seven series of vaccines combined actually increased slightly among children born in 2018-19 by the time they turned 2, compared to children born in 2016- 2017.
This seven-vaccine series includes vaccines against measles, chicken pox, polio, hepatitis B, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae or Haemophilus influenzae, diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough.
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that there are significant disparities in income and race. Vaccination coverage has decreased by up to 5% during the pandemic for those living below the poverty level or in rural areas. Black and Hispanic children had lower vaccination rates than white children.
O’Leary said that although misinformation about vaccines is a problem, the vast majority of parents still get their children vaccinated. He said inequality is the biggest issue.
“The things we really need to focus on are addressing accessibility and child poverty,” O’Leary said.