Vaccination rates among kindergarten children against potentially deadly diseases such as polio, measles and diphtheria fell in the 2021-2022 school year, extending the previous year’s slide from pre-pandemic levels, a U.S. government study showed on Thursday.
The fall in rates for the four most commonly required childhood vaccines reflects the disruption caused by COVID-19 on healthcare and the need to restore vaccination coverage to pre-pandemic levels, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said of the data it collected.
“We’re still trying to understand the extent to which misinformation around COVID vaccine has spread to misinformation about other childhood vaccines,” Sean O’Leary, American Academy of Pediatrics chair of Committee on Infectious Diseases said on a call with reporters.
Overall, those receiving state-required vaccinations declined to about 93% last year, down from 94% in the previous school year and 95% in the 2019-2020 school year, according to the CDC report.
With a vaccination rate of 93.5% specifically against measles — below the national target of 95% — roughly 250,000 kindergarten age children were potentially unprotected against the disease, CDC said.
All U.S. states require the vaccine against measles and rubella and all but Iowa require a shots against mumps. All states also require the combined diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis shot and the vaccine against poliovirus, while 49 states require inoculations against varicella, or chickenpox.
Exemptions for vaccinations, which may be granted by states in cases where parents request them for their children remained low at 2.6%. However, an additional 3.9% who had never requested exceptions were not up to date with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) shot.
The study authors, which included researchers from the CDC, said it had several limitations due to variations in state guidelines and data collection methods that may miss certain children such as those who are home-schooled.
O’Leary said the data points to U.S. needs for a focus on addressing access and poverty in order to increase vaccination rates.