Tag: immunization rates

Vaccination Coverage and Exemption Rates

With record numbers of measles cases this year, lots of folks are interested in vaccination coverage and exemption rates.

You are at increased to get sick and can spread diseases if you are unvaccinated.
You are at increased to get sick and can spread diseases if you are unvaccinated.

Even though our own kids are vaccinated and protected, many of us are concerned about vaccination and exemption rates because we understand the risks.

We know that some kids are too young to be vaccinated and some kids can’t be vaccinated, as they have true medical exemptions.

Vaccination Coverage and Exemption Rates

So how are our vaccination and exemption rates doing these days?

Some states have rates of vaccine exemptions that are much higher than others, with rates from ranging from a low of 0.1% in Mississippi to a high of 7.7% in Idaho and Oregon.
Some states have rates of vaccine exemptions that are much higher than others, with rates from ranging from a low of 0.1% in Mississippi to a high of 7.7% in Idaho and Oregon.

According to the latest reports from the CDC:

  • the percentage of kindergartners with a vaccine exemption continues to slowly rise and is now up to 2.5%, up from 2.3% during the 2017-18 school year
  • an additional 2.8% of kindergartners were not up to date for MMR and did not have a vaccine exemption
  • the percentage of kindergartners up to date for MMR ranged from 87.4% in Colorado to 99.2% in Mississippi
  • coverage by age 24 months was ≥90% for ≥3 doses of polio- virus vaccine (92.7%), ≥1 dose of MMR (90.4%), ≥3 doses of HepB (91.0%), and ≥1 dose of varicella vaccine (90.0%), and are all up over previous years by 1 to 3%
  • only 56% of toddlers receive two or more doses of the flu vaccine by age two years
  • only 1.3% of children born in 2015 and 2016 had received no vaccinations by the second birthday, which is up from 1.1%
  • up to 7.4% of uninsured children received no vaccines, even though they qualify for free vaccines under the Vaccines for Children program

This doesn’t tell the whole story though.

“During the 2018–19 school year, national coverage with MMR, DTaP, and varicella vaccines remained near 95%. However, coverage and exemption rates varied by state. Recent measles outbreaks in states with high overall MMR coverage, such as New York, highlight the need for assessing vaccination coverage at the local level. ”

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Volume 68, Issue Number 41 Vaccination Coverage with Selected Vaccines and Exemption Rates Among Children in Kindergarten — United States, 2018–19 School Year

Although vaccination rates are generally high and exemption rates low at the state and national level, it is the pockets of undervaccinated kids that are the problem.

In Texas, for example, although state level exemptions are fairly low (2.4%) and immunization rates high, in some communities and school districts, more than 50% of kids are unvaccinated!

“The importance of achieving and sustaining high vaccination coverage across all communities is illustrated by the 22 measles outbreaks occurring in the United States in 2019, with 1,249 measles cases identified during January 1–October 1, 2019. Most cases have been among persons who were not vaccinated against measles. Pockets of low vaccination coverage, because of lack of access to vaccination services or to hesitancy resulting from the spread of inaccurate information about vaccines, increase the likelihood of a measles outbreak. “

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Volume 68, Issue Number 41 Vaccination Coverage by Age 24 Months Among Children Born in 2015 and 2016 — National Immunization Survey-Child, United States, 2016–2018

Unfortunately, we don’t see that kind of local data in the latest reports on vaccination coverage and exemption rates.

And while we should certainly work to get everyone vaccinated who doesn’t have an exemption, lots of work needs to be done educate parents that they should vaccinate and protect their kids instead of seeking non-medical exemptions.

More on Vaccination Coverage and Exemption Rates

Responses to New Vaccine Laws

As anti-vax folks haven’t been very successful in stopping states from passing necessary new vaccine laws, what are they doing now?

“In the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District, Superintendent Dr. Lorna Lewis says they had about 65 students affected by the change in religious exemptions. That number is now down to about 20.”

Deadline for unvaccinated students arrives in New York schools

Fortunately, many are vaccinating and protecting their kids!

Anti-Vax Responses to New Vaccine Laws

Not all of them though…

Some of the more outrageous responses to new vaccine laws have included looking to get fake immunization records and sending 'fake' kids to get tested for immunity.
Some of the more outrageous responses to new vaccine laws have included looking to get fake immunization records and sending ‘fake’ kids to get tested for immunity.

Some are fighting the laws.

In Maine, it appears that one group submitted more than enough signatures to get on a ballot that could overturn their new vaccine law that eliminated non-medical exemptions.

A bold response to a new vaccine law - trying to get it overturned.
Will voters in Maine overturn a new vaccine law?

How did they do it?

People said they were misled into signing a petition to overturn a new vaccine law in Maine.
People said they were misled into signing a petition to overturn a new vaccine law in Maine.

There are many reports that the folks gathering signatures in Maine misled people into signing.

Did signature collectors in Maine lie to get enough support for their anti-vax petition?
Did signature collectors in Maine lie to get enough support for their anti-vax petition?

When you actually look at the petition that the vaccine choice in Maine used, it is easy to see that it is basically a list of anti-vaccine talking points that often scare and mislead parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids, including that Maine’s new vaccine law:

Kinder MEs are high in most of Maine.
Kinder MEs are high in most of Maine.
  • Eliminates parents’ ability to decide what’s best for their children. – Vaccine mandates don’t force parents to vaccinate their kids. They still have a choice, even if they don’t like what their choices which no longer include sending their intentionally unvaccinated kids to school.
  • Will harm, not help, public health. – Getting more kids vaccinated and protected does not harm public health!
  • Strips parents of their right to religious freedom. – Which religions are against getting kids vaccinated and protected?
  • Prevents a minority group from receiving an education. – Since parents have a choice on whether or not to vaccinate their kids, it is not the schools or the state that is preventing intentionally unvaccinated kids from receiving an education.
  • Those who need medical exemptions cannot get them. – Every state allows medical exemptions. Under some new vaccine laws, unscrupulous health care providers can no longer make up their own rules for what counts as a medical exemption though.
  • Our childhood vaccination rates are high. – Fortunately, vaccination rates are generally high in most of the country, but that’s not the issue. It is the clusters of unvaccinated kids that are typically the problem. At the Maine Coast Waldorf School, for example, only 38% of kids had the recommended two doses of MMR!
  • Unvaccinated children are not a risk to the immunocompromised. – This is simply not true.
  • Vaccines DO cause injury. – Yes, but the risks from vaccines are small, unlike vaccine-preventable diseases, they very rarely cause severe injuries.

What are they doing in other states?

In New York, they have tried to equate their choice to not vaccinate their kids, which is what’s actually keeping those kids from going to school, with efforts to desegregate schools in the 1960s.

It's sad that these parents think that wanting to send their intentionally unvaccinated kids to school compares to the efforts to get Ruby Bridges into school and other civil rights issues.
It’s sad that these parents think that wanting to send their intentionally unvaccinated kids to school compares to the efforts to get Ruby Bridges into school and other civil rights issues.

And while some kids are now being homeschooled, some parents continued to send their intentionally unvaccinated kids to school, right up until the deadline to get vaccinated and protected, hoping their lawsuits would succeed and keep their kids in school.

They haven’t so far.

And they likely won’t in the future.

Other parents, when they lose one exemption, simply try to substitute it with another.

Are kids with true medical exemptions getting denied as schools see a lot of inappropriate exemptions for things like MTHFR?
Are kids with true medical exemptions getting denied as schools see a lot of inappropriate exemptions for things like MTHFR?

Can’t get a personal belief exemption anymore? Try a religious exemption. And when they take that away, go with a medical exemption.

Of course, that doesn’t work once schools no longer accept inappropriate medical exemptions.

What will work?

Getting their kids vaccinated and protected.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are obviously necessary.

More on Responses to New Vaccine Laws

The VACCINES Act

A lot of folks have been saying that new Federal vaccines laws were coming.

Instead, we have just been seeing more and more cases of measles.

The VACCINES Act

Well, we might finally be getting a new Federal vaccine law, but it isn’t the kind of law that will force people to get vaccinated that anti-vaccine folks have been warning us about.

Rep. Schrier with the AAP Executive Committee, who urge passage of the VACCINES Act and federal funding for vaccine hesitancy surveillance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rep. Schrier with the AAP Executive Committee, who urge passage of the VACCINES Act and federal funding for vaccine hesitancy surveillance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Instead, the Vaccine Awareness Campaign to Champion Immunization Nationally and Enhance Safety (VACCINES) Act, which was recently introduced by Representative Kim Schrier (D-Wash.) will simply help to increase public awareness of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

“Vaccines were one of the greatest medical accomplishments of the 20th century and have been proven safe and effective at preventing diseases that once killed or greatly harmed people around the world.

As a pediatrician, I understand that parents want to do what they think is best for their children and some do not vaccinate because of unfounded fears. We are now seeing outbreaks of diseases like measles, which was considered eliminated 19 years ago, in part because of an anti-vaccine campaigns around the country. This bill will make sure that parents have access to facts about vaccines, so they can make an informed decision.”

Rep. Kim Schrier

The VACCINES Act will:

While I’m pretty sure the CDC could already do all of these things already without a new law, hopefully it will provide the extra funding and resources to actually get it done.

Tell your U.S. representative to consider co-sponsoring the VACCINES Act and help get this bill passed.

More on the VACCINES Act

Fact Checking the Truth About Vaccination Rates in California

In general, higher immunization rates should translate into lower rates of disease.

And it is true that in most states, including California, overall immunization rates are up.

So what’s happening?

Fact Checking the Truth About Vaccination Rates in California

Everyone knows what’s happening!

Clusters of unvaccinated kids and adults.

Pockets of susceptibles.

Abuse and overuse of vaccine exemptions.

And folks who continue to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

There are measles outbreaks in this part of northern California...
There are measles outbreaks in this part of northern California…

What’s the truth about California’s immunization rates and the reason they are still having outbreaks of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases?

“Oh, but wait! What do you mean we have higher vaccination coverage NOW than we did back then? How can that be? I thought rates have been declining steadily for two decades putting us in a terrible position of falling wayyyy below herd immunity levels!?

I thought the reason we are now “in danger of disease outbreaks” is because of the increasing number of children being exempted from vaccines? Hold on, wait. You’re telling me there are LESS kids exempted now than there were in the year 2000 when we were free of outbreaks because of “high vaccination rates”? That can’t be right…can it?”

Melissa Floyd

You aren’t going to get it from anti-vaccine folks

73% is actually pretty good for a Waldorf school!
73% is actually pretty good for a Waldorf school!

But it’s not surprising that you get misinformation about herd immunity from folks who think vaccines don’t actually create herd immunity.

And it shouldn’t be surprising that you can’t hide in the herd when your herd is a cluster of unvaccinated kids at a Waldorf school.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are obviously necessary. Vaccinate your kids and help stop the outbreaks.

More on Fact Checking the Truth About Vaccination Rates in California