US Childhood Vaccinations Drop for 3rd Consecutive Year: CDC

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The percentage of school-aged American children who’ve received routine childhood vaccines, while still high, has dropped again during the past school year, a new government report says.

The report, released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), looked at the coverage rates of four vaccines mandated by state and local school entry requirements, including measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccines; the diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccines; and vaccines against poliovirus (polio) and varicella (chickenpox).

During the 2021–2022 school year, according to the report, the coverage among kindergarten children was approximately 93 percent nationwide for each of the four vaccines. It was around 94 percent during the 2020–2021 school year, and 95 percent during the 2019–2020 school year, when children were vaccinated before the COVID-19 pandemic.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia currently require children to take certain vaccines before going to public school, with limited exemptions. The report found that the number of students with exemptions remained steady, at 2.6 percent.

While the overall rate of vaccination is still very high, a one percent dip could mean hundreds of thousands fewer children are taking the shots, the CDC says.

“MMR coverage of 93.5 percent translates to nearly 250,000 kindergartners who are potentially not protected against measles,” the government researchers said in the report. “Clusters of unvaccinated and undervaccinated children can lead to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.”

MMR vaccines have been widely available since 1971, and are required in 49 states and the District of Columbia for public school enrollment. Iowa is the only exception, as it mandates vaccination against measles and rubella, but not mumps.

The drop in childhood vaccine coverage might have to do with the COVID-19 pandemic’s disruptions to medical services and in-person schooling, said Dr. Georgina Peacock, director of the CDC’s immunization services division, in a press briefing about the report.

Those who were hesitant about getting COVID vaccines might also now be hesitant about taking their children to get other vaccines, according to Peacock. “That’s something that we are watching very closely,” she said.

By Bill Pan

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