Sep 12, 2022 - News

Philadelphia sees drop in kids’ routine vaccinations

Illustration of a row of pencils with a vaccine syringe replacing one pencil.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

More parents are skipping required vaccines for their school-aged children. 

What’s happening: Only 82.2% of kindergarteners in district-run schools had all five mandatory immunizations for illnesses such as mumps and chickenpox during the 2021-22 school year, Christina Clark, spokesperson for the School District of Philadelphia, told Axios. 

  • That’s down from an 89.9% immunization rate for kindergarteners during the 2019-20 school year. 

Zoom in: Immunization rates for 7th graders and 12th graders — who require additional vaccines — also dropped last year compared to pre-pandemic times, according to state data released last month

  • 7th graders require the Tdap and meningococcal conjugate (MCV4), while 12th graders need a second dose of the latter. 

Why it matters: Gaps in vaccinations make everyone more vulnerable, with some of the city’s population affected more than others.

  • Philadelphia's under-vaccinated African American and Hispanic communities face higher risk from complications caused by preventable diseases due to barriers in accessing adequate healthcare.

What they’re saying: Kendra McDow, a system medical officer for the school district, said the drop in vaccination rates for kindergarteners is “very concerning.”  

  • “These are vaccine-preventable diseases, like polio, like measles,” she said.

State of play: New York declared a state disaster over polio on Friday after an unvaccinated individual tested positive. 

Between the lines: In hopes of reversing the trend and boosting rates for the 2022-23 school year, the district bolstered its outreach and held 16 vaccination events this past summer.

  • More than 700 K-12 students received a combination of vaccinations and sports physicals at those events, McDow said. 

What’s next: The district anticipates holding more vaccination events for students this year. 

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