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Kindergarten vaccination rates continue to slide

New research suggests strategies to reverse trend
MMR vaccine.jpeg
Posted at 6:47 PM, Aug 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-23 20:47:21-04

The number of kindergarteners in Colorado entering school this month who have completed their childhood immunizations fell to 88.4%, tying the lowest point in the past six years.

The measles, mumps, and rubella shot has even lower compliance.

"About 86.8 percent of kindergartners were vaccinated this latest year and it's down about 2 percent," said Emily Bustos, Executive Director of Immunize Colorado.

"So, we are seeing specifically that one having more decrease."

All three diseases covered by the vaccine are highly contagious.

"Measles are so incredibly infectious, they're respiratory, you walk into a room and you could infect 15, 20, 30 people in a few coughs," explained El Paso County Coroner, Dr. Leon Kelly, M.D. "The vaccination rates have to be really high generally for some of these we're looking at 95% classically we've been able to do in America."

According to the CDC, most children who get sick with measles develop a rash, cold symptoms, watery-swollen eyes, and a high fever. However, severe cases can be deadly.

"It can cause encephalitis, meningitis, you know there's some really, really negative things that can happen as a result of measles," Bustos said. "Especially in immune-compromised children or even adults, that's a significant concern."

Bustos suspects that too many parents are getting bad information about vaccines from social media.

"Social media is a big element of the misinformation, it's getting out there among the parents themselves. I think we also have public figures that are pushing anti-vaccine ideas which is not helpful," she said.

However, new research suggests vaccine hesitancy may not be the only reason kids are falling behind.

"Those, to us, seem more like structural barriers than vaccine hesitancy."

Doctor Matthew Daley is a pediatrician and researcher with Kaiser Permanente. He was part of a team that reviewed answers from more than 16,000 Americans in a 2019 vaccine survey.

"Kids who have lost their health insurance were more likely to be under-vaccinated, kids who moved across state lines were more likely to be under-vaccinated, kids from households that had a lower income were more likely to be under-vaccinated," Daley said.

He believes healthcare professionals can help by mailing, calling, or texting parents a vaccine reminder.

"As physicians, we need that reminder too. "That's something called a physician prompt, which is where if I'm seeing a child for an ear infection or for something else, if I work in a setting that has an electronic health record if that health record prompts me and says all this child is missing their last dose of a vaccine, then I can say oh I can go ahead and do that today."

These professionals recommend parents who have concerns about vaccine safety or the ingredients to share those concerns with their child's doctor.
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