Child Vaccination Rates Continue to Drop, CDC Says

A new report shows vaccine rates for kindergarten students continue to decrease in a new report from the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Key takeaways:
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    New numbers from the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) show child vaccinations decreased.
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    The COVID-19 pandemic has had an effect on children receiving routine vaccinations.
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    The new bivalent COVID-19 booster received emergency authorization for children 6 months and older last month.

Data released on Friday shows the percentage of U.S. kindergartners who received standard child vaccinations in 2021-2022 dropped to 93% from the previous mark of 94% in 2020-2021.

Although it is a slight drop, the number shows concerning signs. In the report, the CDC says perhaps COVID-19 disturbances in the healthcare system continued to affect vaccination for kindergartners.

Child vaccines mandated and the doses received can vary per state. The research provided evaluates data for the MMR, DTaP, IPV, and VAR vaccines.

MMR helps protect against measles, mumps, and rubella. DTaP protects against tetanus, pertussis, and diphtheria. IPV protects against polio while VAR serves as a counter to chicken pox. A complete list of childhood vaccines and when the child should receive them is available on the CDC website.

Data for hepatitis b vaccination was not included in the CDC’s report. The CDC highlights exemption rates for required vaccines remained low at 2.6%.

Other than the State of Montana, during the 2021-2022 school year, 49 states and Washington D.C. reported state-required vaccine information for public school kindergarteners. Forty-eight states along with Washington D.C. reported vaccine information for private school kindergarten students. Of the national estimated U.S. kindergartners, over three million (92.2%) were included in the study

Researchers note that the continuing decline of childhood vaccinations means at least 250,000 kindergartners are not protected against measles. Nine states reported measles vaccination under 90%.

Those states include:

  • Alaska - 78.0%
  • Wisconsin - 82.6%
  • Georgia - 83.2%
  • Idaho - 83.9%
  • Kentucky - 86.5%
  • Ohio - 88.3%
  • Colorado - 88.4%
  • New Hampshire - 88.7%
  • Minnesota - 89.0%

Recently, a measles outbreak in Ohio found the majority of those ill did not have a measles vaccination. The report displayed in the journal JAMA says over 26 hospitalizations occurred in the 73 known cases since October of 2022.

The CDC has developed a new initiative called Routine Immunizations on Schedule for Everyone, better known as RISE. RISE’s goal is to provide avenues, resources, and research to help Americans get on track with their normal vaccine schedule.

COVID-19 impacts on school vaccinations

Perhaps, due to the emphasis on COVID-19 vaccinations for children, parents have been sidetracked from regular vaccinations. World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Tedros, Adhanom Ghebreyesus, alludes to this phenomenon impacting the entire globe.

"“The paradox of the pandemic is that while vaccines against COVID-19 were developed in record time and deployed in the largest vaccination campaign in history, routine immunization programs were badly disrupted, and millions of kids missed out on life-saving vaccinations against deadly diseases like measles. Getting immunization programs back on track is absolutely critical. Behind every statistic in this report is a child at risk of a preventable disease.”"

— WHO Director-Generlal Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Although it is not concrete, some research suggests vaccine hesitancy has increased through the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation, parents of children under the age of 18 are more reluctant to obtain vaccinations for measles, mumps, and rubella.

As of October 2019, 23% percent of parents believed parents should be able to decide not to vaccinate their children versus 35% in December 2022.

Myocarditis and COVID-19 vaccines

Much of the vaccine hesitancy around COVID-19 revolves around the increase in myocarditis — an inflammation of the heart muscle. The CDC in April 2021 received data of increased cases of myocarditis and pericarditis following COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Rare cases of these heart inflammation conditions are most reported in young males ages 16 and older, occurring seven days after the second dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine produced by either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

Currently, the CDC is investigating the severity of myocarditis and pericarditis, with updates still pending. The CDC still recommends vaccination as the best form of protection against COVID-19 and is currently recommending the new bivalent booster to shield against new variants.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for the new boosters produced by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech on Dec. 8, 2022, for children over 6 months of age. Data provided by the CDC on Friday shows the new booster has caused no cases of myocarditis nor death in children aged 5 to 11 years old.

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