U.S. vaccination decline continues: 250,000 mothers vulnerable to measles

A small person looks at the bandage applied to his arm.
Enlarge / A child gets vaccinated on February 19, 2021 in Bonn, Germany.

Routine childhood immunization coverage continues to decline among kindergarten children in the United States, dropping from 95% – the target coverage – before the pandemic to 94% in the 2020-2021 school year and at the new low of 93% in the 2021-2022 school year, according to new analysis released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although a 2% drop “does not seem significant, it does mean that almost 250,000 kindergarten children are potentially unprotected against measles alone,” Georgina Peacock, director of the health services division, told reporters. vaccination from the CDC, during a press briefing on Thursday. And, she added, national coverage of the MMR vaccination – which protects against measles, mumps and rubella – is now the lowest in more than a decade.

Peacock and other health experts in the briefing attributed the continued decline to a variety of factors. Chief among these are pandemic-related disruptions, such as missed doctor’s appointments for healthy children where routine vaccines are given. There is also data suggesting barriers to access for children living below the poverty line or in rural areas. And misinformation and disinformation about vaccines continue to play a role, as they did for many years before the pandemic.

Exemptions

Coverage potentially achievable with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine in kindergarten children, by state — United States, 2021-2022 school year.  The light blue bars represent children who are not up to date with their vaccine and do not have any exemptions.
Enlarge / Coverage potentially achievable with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine in kindergarten children, by state — United States, 2021-2022 school year. The light blue bars represent children who are not up to date with their vaccine and do not have any exemptions.

In recent years, when officials have seen a drop in vaccination rates due to anti-vaccine rhetoric, they have also seen a corresponding increase in exemptions for school vaccination requirements. But CDC officials don’t see that in the current data. Although exemptions increased slightly from last year – by 0.4% – the main driver of the overall decline in vaccination coverage has been a larger increase in the number of children who are not up to date with their vaccines but who do not have exemption status to explain the lack of shots.

Shannon Stokley, deputy director of the CDC’s Immunization Services Division, told reporters the drop could be due to pandemic-related school policies that provided parents with grace periods and other flexibilities to put their children in school. up-to-date on their vaccinations and vaccination forms filed with the school.

That could mean vaccine coverage could rebound with little effort from the health community as America continues to try to emerge from the pandemic. But CDC officials also acknowledged that rampant anti-vaccine sentiments surrounding the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines may have spilled over into routine childhood immunization, making a full rebound less likely.

“We’ve seen some hesitancy in vaccines during the pandemic related primarily, I think, to the COVID vaccine. That could translate into routine vaccinations in some cases,” Peacock said. “It’s something we’re watching very closely,” she added, saying the main method to combat vaccine hesitancy is to refer parents to trusted healthcare providers to discuss. concerns about vaccines.

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