Aug 30, 2022 - News

Childhood vaccination rates down in Colorado, new data shows

Colorado K-12 immunization rates
Data: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

More parents are forgoing required vaccines for their school-aged children — a situation that is raising concern among state public health officials.

Driving the news: 91.8% of Colorado students received all mandatory vaccines in the 2020-21 school year, according to data released Monday by the state's public health department.

  • That represents a 2.2% decline from the prior year when immunizations plummeted amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Immunization rates among kindergartners are the worst at just 86.7%, a 5.2 percentage point year-over-year decline.
  • One bright spot is vaccines for childcare and preschool ages, up about 1% across the board.

Why it matters: Colorado typically ranks toward the bottom nationally when it comes to school-age vaccination rates, and a controversial 2020 law signed by Gov. Jared Polis to make it harder to seek exemptions is not doing enough to boost inoculation numbers.

What they're saying: The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sent parents text message and email reminders about routine vaccinations ahead of the new school year.

  • "Staying up to date on routine vaccinations for preventable diseases is critical to the public health of Colorado," the state's chief medical officer, Eric France, said in a statement.

Be smart: Five vaccinations are necessary for students entering kindergarten and protect against diseases such as measles, mumps, whooping cough, polio and chickenpox.

  • The COVID-19 vaccine is not required, and its adoption by parents of children is lagging even more than routine immunizations.

The intrigue: Even though new rules are making it harder to get vaccine exemptions for personal beliefs, the state is seeing the rate of medical excuses inversely increase by roughly 5%.


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