Child vaccination rates are dangerously low


More than 250,000 children have entered kindergarten Fall 2021 may be at risk of contracting measles, which is one of the Most infectious pathogens on the planet, because they haven’t received the vaccinations needed to attend school, according to federal health data released Thursday.

Only about 93 percent of American kindergarten children have been vaccinated against the potentially fatal disease with the required two doses — the second year in a row that measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) coverage has fallen below the 95 percent level needed to prevent the spread of the virus in the states United. social communication. The last time kindergarten children were in the United States that protection It was during the 2019-2020 school year, before the pandemic hit.

the Report From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention It also shows continued declines in immunization rates for three other childhood vaccines that prevent diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (DTaP), polio, and chicken pox between kindergartens in 2021.

The latest data confirms Concerns that increased parental resistance to routine childhood immunizations is Fueling the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as recent measles outbreaks in Minnesota and Columbus, Ohio, which sickened more than 100 children last year. The pandemic has inflated the issue due to the politicization surrounding it Corona Virus Vaccines, the ongoing consequences of school closures and fewer children going to the doctor over immunization rates.

“We know that measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination coverage for kindergartners is the lowest in over a decade…that’s a cause for concern,” Georgina Peacock, director of CDC’s Immunization Services, said in a briefing.

While it may seem a two percentage point drop in measles vaccination rates Health officials and experts warn that even the smallest drop allows the virus to spread more quickly, causing outbreaks in clusters of unvaccinated children. Measles is so contagious that people who They may not know that they are being exposed You can become infected and spread the virus to family members or other contacts before they develop symptoms.

In addition to being lethal, the measles virus It weakens the immune system and makes the child more susceptible to other illnesses such as pneumonia and diarrhea – an effect that lasts for months after the body clears the measles infection.

Sean O’Leary, a pediatric infectious disease physician, called recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and polio “alarming.” At the press conference, he said childhood vaccination is necessary because it “prepares children’s immune systems to recognize and resist diseases so that they can develop healthy lives and live into adulthood.”

Many of these could be prevented, said O’Leary, who cares for children at the hospital with “the simple, safe step of keeping your child up to date with recommended vaccinations.”

Federal data shows nine states and the District of Columbia with vaccination coverage among preschoolers below 90 percent, including Ohio and Minnesota. This is the largest number of states that fall below this level in published CDC data, going back to 2009-2010. New York, Nebraska, North Carolina and Tennessee are among the 12 states with measles, mumps and rubella vaccination rates above 95 percent.

Kindergarten coverage of all four childhood vaccines For prevention against measles, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP), polio, and chickenpox — it was about 93 percent nationally in the 2021-2022 school year, down from 94 percent in 2020-2021, and 95 percent in 2019-2020.

This decrease means that more than 275,000 kindergarteners may not have full protection from these diseases, according to the CDC.

The World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn measles is an “imminent threat” worldwide

There are several factors behind this decline. Pandemic-related disruptions to the healthcare system have delayed children’s checkups. As a result, providers have requested fewer doses than the federal program that provides vaccines to half of American children. In some cases, schools too It lacks staff to ensure parents provide health documents in a timely manner.

and concerns about The value of the coronavirus vaccine is increasingly seeping into routine immunizations.

We’ve seen some hesitation with vaccines during the pandemic mostly related, I think, to the covid vaccine. “In some cases, this could translate into routine vaccinations,” said Peacock of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “And that’s something we’re watching closely.”

And she warned that preventable diseases are spreading quickly, noting recent measles outbreaks in Ohio and Minnesota.

The CDC recommends that children get: two doses of the MMR vaccine, With the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second dose between 4 and 6 years of age. A single dose of the vaccine is 93 percent effective in preventing measles; Two doses are 97 percent effective.

In the Columbus eruption, it was most 83 injured children They were old enough to get the vaccines, but their parents chose not to, officials said, leading to the largest outbreak of the highly contagious disease in the country in 2022. If no new cases are reported by Jan. 30, authorities will likely announce, they said. Miles Bell, a spokesman for the Columbus Department of Health, said this outbreak is over.

Minnesota reported 22 cases of measles between June and November last year, but they occurred in several clusters. This pattern was more troubling than a major outbreak, such as one in the state in 2017.

The clusters “remained as contained as small campfires, but each had the potential to expand dramatically into a wildfire that could have more serious consequences,” said Doug Schultz, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Health. Health officials said vaccine hesitancy was a contributing factor to the two outbreaks.

Peacock and O’Leary He also referred to the case Paralyzing polio In a New York man this summer he raised concerns about declining childhood immunization rates and rising vaccine misinformation It can lead to a resurgence of the disease, decades after vaccination exclusion in the United States.

“I think these are all evidence of the fact that we have pockets in the United States where we have low vaccine coverage among children … and also in these very communities there is a need to increase vaccination rates,” Peacock said in an interview.

This week, the CDC launched an initiative to re-immunize adults and children on schedule. Officials are giving healthcare providers more Information and strategies to help them talk about vaccines and work more extensively with community groups in areas where vaccination rates are very low.

The overall decline in childhood immunization rates is worrisome, and the decline in measles vaccination in particular, is dangerously low and “extremely worrisome,” said Rupali Limaye, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University who has studied vaccine reluctance.

I’ve spoken to hundreds of parents, church, and other community groups in the past three years about the coronavirus vaccine. She said many people may not have had problems with their routine immunization schedule before the pandemic. But Laimi said confusing messages about children’s need for a coronavirus vaccine “affected their decision-making about these routine immunizations.”

Vaccination advocates say it is difficult to raise vaccination rates without a clearer understanding of why they are falling.

“Most recent surveys show that parents are still very supportive of childhood vaccinations, so is it an awareness issue?” asked Erica Diewald, director of strategic communications for Vaccinate Your Family, an immunization advocacy group. Or do we need to identify the accessibility issues that have arisen as a result of the pandemic? We need to continue collaborating with community partners to identify and address underlying barriers to vaccination.”

Dan Keating contributed to this report.

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