Kindergarten vaccination rates have dropped dramatically since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and experts say it’s due to vaccine hesitancy.
The 2019–2020 school year saw a 95% decline in kindergarten immunization rates as a result of the closure of the institutions. However, the percentage decreased even further to 94% in 2020–2021 and 93% in 2021–2022, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released on Friday.
According to the CDC, “increasing follow-up with undervaccinated students to reduce the impact of disruptions on vaccination coverage can help protect students from vaccine-preventable diseases.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every state mandates the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Furthermore, we need a 95% immunization rate to achieve community protection against the disease.
Central Ohio provides a case study on the impact of undervaccination. Since November, there have been 85 cases of measles in Central Ohio, the majority in children under the age of five. In addition, 34 required hospitalization.
Among these kids, 78 had not been administered any measles vaccinations, six had only received one dose, and one’s vaccination status was unknown.
The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) reports that the COVID-19 vaccine mandate discussions over the past few years “appear to have had an impact on public attitudes towards MMR vaccine requirements for public schools.” According to their survey conducted last month, vaccine hesitancy is present in the adult population, too: 71% of adults—down from 84% in a 2019 survey—think healthy children should receive the MMR vaccine.
But it’s critically important to continue routine vaccination to keep deadly diseases at bay. “In 1921 alone, diphtheria killed nearly 15,000 people in the U.S. and measles infected nearly every citizen, killing hundreds,” but today both are nearly unheard of, says Vaccinate Your Family.
Other health threats, like polio, which is seeing a resurgence, can be kept at bay—but only if children are vaccinated.