January 28, 2023

Vaccine uptake among preschoolers has fallen to a 10-year low due to pandemic restrictions and a growing anti-vaxx movement sweeping the US.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 93 percent of kids had their MMR, DTaP, varicella, and polio vaccines at the start of the 2021-2022 school year, compared to 94 percent last year.

It means that about 250,000 went to school unprotected against potentially deadly diseases like measles, tetanus and polio – which are starting to rise again in the US.

Dr. Sean O’Leary, chair of the American Association of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Diseases, said, “Hundreds of thousands of children go to school without complete protection against measles, mumps, whooping cough and other diseases that can easily spread in classrooms.”

1673556658 557 Routine vaccine uptake among kindergarteners falls to 10 year low leaving

He added that “outbreaks like this are harmful to children and alarming,” and warned that the problem “affects everyone in these communities.”

The study suggested that the falling vaccination rate was due to a range of pandemic factors.

On and off lockdowns and limited access to hospitals and clinics are said to have contributed to the two percent drop in preschoolers getting their shots.

But the recent surge in anti-vaxx sentiment – spurred by misinformation about Covid mRNA vaccines – may also have played a role in the increasing number of parents hesitant to vaccinate their children.

In October, the CDC added the Covid vaccine to the regular vaccination schedule, opening the door for local school districts across America to mandate the shot.

In the US, children are strongly advised to receive the first dose of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine when they are about 12 months old, and then receive the second dose when they are four to six years old.

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DTaP, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus and acellular whooping cough, requires five doses, given on average between the ages of two months and four to six years of age.

The last two vaccines needed to get to school are against varicella and polio, both of which require multiple doses over a similar time frame.

Vaccination coverage has been steadily declining since the 2019-2020 school year.

Nationally, data from the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found a two-dose MMR coverage of 93 percent, but the numbers varied by state.

This brought the MMR vaccination rate to its lowest level since the 2013-2014 school year, when the average number of fully vaccinated preschoolers was 94.7.

In New York, where the largest number of preschoolers were fully vaccinated, 98 percent had received both shots. But in Alaska, only 78 percent were reported to be fully vaccinated.

That’s what scientists say 95 percent of the population must be vaccinated against measles to achieve herd immunity due to its rapid spread.

Herd immunity occurs when a large enough portion of a community is immune to a disease that further spread is unlikely.

Reaching this threshold is essential to ensure that children who are medically unable to receive vaccines can still attend school and remain safe.

Data was collected from nearly 4 million children enrolled in kindergarten — generally between the ages of four and five — in 49 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

State and local eligibility requirements require schoolchildren in the US to present proof of vaccination to school nurses at the beginning of each year.

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Of the children surveyed, 2.6 percent had an official exemption — 0.2 percent medical and 2.3 percent nonmedical — for one or more of the required vaccines.

Medical exceptions to vaccines are relatively uncommon and are only given if a child has a proven medical contraindication to the vaccine.

These could be very rare cases of a severe allergic reaction to the injection, which only occurs in about one in a million cases, or immunodeficiency caused by something like HIV, chemotherapy, or long-term immunosuppressive therapy.

Non-medical exemptions for people with objections to immunization based on genuine religious beliefs are available in 45 stateswhile exemptions based on personal, moral or philosophical beliefs are available in 15.

Some states have introduced measures to remove exemptions for both religious and personal beliefs to reduce rapidly declining vaccination rates.

New York, West Virginia, Connecticut, Maine, California, Washington, and Mississippi do not allow any exceptions to non-medical vaccinations.

Data for the 2021-2022 school year also showed a rise in the number of children who were not fully vaccinated or officially exempt — a category that now accounts for 3.9 percent of preschoolers nationwide.

These non-exempt, non-vaccinated students are often allowed to attend school during a deferral period or are provisionally enrolled.

Growing populations of unvaccinated or undervaccinated children, even in larger areas with high vaccination coverage, could lead to disease outbreaks, the report warns.

In August, the first polio case in the US was reported in nearly a decade. The unvaccinated adult became partially paralyzed by polio after contracting the virus from an international traveler in Rockland County, NY.

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The virus was later found in New York City sewage samples.

Measles, once considered an eradicated disease, has also seen a resurgence in the US this year, with at least 20 cases diagnosed in the upper Midwest.

Since it was declared eliminated in the US in 2000, the number of American children under the age of two who are not vaccinated has quadrupled.

As recent CDC numbers imply, this trend has only been accentuated by pandemic-induced vaccine skepticism.