Declining Kindergarten Vaccination Rate

Andrew Joseph:

The percentage of U.S. kindergartners who’ve received standard childhood vaccines took a small but notable dip into the 2021-2022 school year, health officials said Thursday, amid disruptions related to Covid-19 and fears that anti-vaccine sentiment stirred up by the pandemic could be spreading to other shots.

Vaccinations among children remain high, but the trend — with coverage dropping from about 95% in the 2019-2020 school year to 94% in 2020-2021 to 93% in 2021-2022, according to the data released Thursday — has health officials concerned. Having that rate of kindergartners vaccinated against measles, for example, means that at least 250,000 kindergarteners could be unprotected.

“This is alarming and should be a call to action to all of us,” said Sean O’Leary, the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Diseases.

The new data, published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, looked at uptake of routine childhood vaccinations, including the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) shot; the diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) shot; and the shots against poliovirus and varicella (chickenpox). Overall, the CDC recommends routine vaccination against 14 diseases during the first two years of a child’s life.

Though there was some variation in uptake among the different vaccinations, all the shots saw a 0.4 to a 0.9 percentage point drop in coverage from 2020-2021 to 2021-2022, the CDC reported.