Jan 17, 2023 - News

Kids' declining vaccination rates open door for outbreaks

Illustration of a bandaid made out of lego blocks.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As the number of parents getting standard vaccines for their kids has fallen, health experts worry about possible outbreaks of disease.

By the numbers: The vaccine rates for MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), polio and chicken pox for kindergarteners in the 2021-22 school year in Arkansas hovered between 91.3% and 92.5%, according to the latest report from the CDC.

  • Past national vaccination rates have trended around 94-95% and are now around 93%.
  • Those 2021-22 rates declined slightly from the year before, with polio inoculations falling by the largest margin — from 92.7% to 91.4%.

What they're saying: The drop-off can be attributed to a combination of factors, such as online misinformation regarding vaccines and health care disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Joe Thompson, president and CEO at Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, tells Axios.

  • Outbreaks of illnesses such as mumps and measles have been reported in communities with vaccination rates similar to Arkansas, and the downward trend in vaccinations is concerning, he said.

The big picture: Vaccine hesitancy is a national trend. A study released last week by the CDC found that vaccination rates nationwide dropped to 93% during the 2021-22 school year, down from 94% the year before.

State of play: Although the vaccines are required for kids to attend school, parents can claim exemptions for medical, religious or philosophical reasons.

  • Of Arkansas' 735 exemptions in the 2020-21 academic year, 14 — or about 2% — were for medical reasons, per CDC data.

The bottom line: Thompson urged parents to make sure their kids are up to date on their shots.

  • Thompson noted these are not new vaccines, and decades of data have shown they are extremely safe and effective.

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