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Health experts concerned as routine childhood vaccines decrease statewide

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Posted at 8:02 PM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 00:29:28-04

COLORADO SPRINGS  — As kids head back into the classrooms, state health officials are urging parents to get their kids routine vaccines.

The Colorado Department of Health and Environment says the state is experiencing decreases in vaccinations. With the exception of hepatitis B, immunization rates for school-required vaccines fell among kindergartners -- with coverage for polio and varicella falling below 90 percent.

Statewide rates among Colorado child care facilities fell for all seven school-required vaccines, though coverage rates remained at or above 93 percent. From mid-March 2020 through mid-April 2020, data from the Colorado Immunization Information System showed a 37.8 percent decline in childhood and adolescent vaccines administered per week compared to the same time the previous year. From mid-April 2020 through mid-March 2021, the data showed a decline of 5.5 percent.

“Staying up-to-date on existing vaccinations is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Heather Roth, Immunization Branch Chief, Division of Disease Control and Public Health Response with CDPHE. “The last thing we want is an outbreak of any kind, especially when it’s easily preventable. Let’s keep our focus on slowing the spread of COVID-19 and do what we can to give our children the best chance at safe in-person learning this school year.”

Just like many parents, Fiona Feickert has done her research on vaccines.

"I learned about thiomersal which is a mercury derivative. In the types of mercury, there are methyl and ethyl mercury. Methyl mercury is the kind that if you get in seafood it could be dangerous for you, and ethyl is the kind you can flush out of your system better. So they say it's not as bad for you, but they say it's not as bad for you which raised some warning flags. I'm happy to report that even before my son was born, all childhood vaccines stopped using thiomersal as a binding agent. It's because of that that I feel more comfortable with using the regular vaccines," said Feickert. "We pretty much stopped with the flu vaccines but with other vaccines, we do one shot and wait six months before we do another one."

Feickert is concerned with the decline in vaccination rates.

"When I see the stats continue to drop when I see more and more people are becoming vaccine weary, it honestly makes me feel like they are getting most of their news from Facebook and social media. Is that who your source is or is your source considering what the CDC has to say or the FDA has to say. What credible sources are giving you that information. I think if more people looked at credible sources, it wouldn't be dropping at the extreme rate that it is," said Feickert.

"Anytime we see a decrease in vaccination rates, we do get concerned about the potential for kids sharing these vaccine-preventable diseases," said Dr. Sara Saporta-Keating, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist, Children's Hospital Colorado.

She says vaccines can help prevent infection and disease caused by particular organisms.

"Some are better at preventing infections altogether and some are better at preventing severe diseases associated with those infections," said Saporta-Keating.

In Colorado Springs, overall Kindergarten vaccinations for Academy District 20, fell from 85.9 percent in 2019-2020 to 78.07 percent in 2020-2021.

Pueblo also saw a slight drop in immunizations in Pueblo City District 60. For the 2019-2020 school year the overall kindergarten immunization rate was 88.86 percent, that number fell to 85.4 percent.

To check your school's vaccination rates and compare them to state numbers, you can click this link here.

Colorado has tools to help parents and guardians make informed choices about vaccinating their children.