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US Childhood Vaccinations Drop for 3rd Consecutive Year: CDC

The percentage of school-aged American children who’ve received routine childhood vaccines, while still high, has dropped again during the past school year, a new government report says.

The report, released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), looked at the coverage rates of four vaccines mandated by state and local school entry requirements, including measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccines; the diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccines; and vaccines against poliovirus (polio) and varicella (chickenpox).

During the 2021–2022 school year, according to the report, the coverage among kindergarten children was approximately 93 percent nationwide for each of the four vaccines. It was around 94 percent during the 2020–2021 school year, and 95 percent during the 2019–2020 school year, when children were vaccinated before the COVID-19 pandemic.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia currently require children to take certain vaccines before going to public school, with limited exemptions. The report found that the number of students with exemptions remained steady, at 2.6 percent.

While the overall rate of vaccination is still very high, a one percent dip could mean hundreds of thousands fewer children are taking the shots, the CDC says.

“MMR coverage of 93.5 percent translates to nearly 250,000 kindergartners who are potentially not protected against measles,” the government researchers said in the report. “Clusters of unvaccinated and undervaccinated children can lead to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.”

MMR vaccines have been widely available since 1971, and are required in 49 states and the District of Columbia for public school enrollment. Iowa is the only exception, as it mandates vaccination against measles and rubella, but not mumps.

The drop in childhood vaccine coverage might have to do with the COVID-19 pandemic’s disruptions to medical services and in-person schooling, said Dr. Georgina Peacock, director of the CDC’s immunization services division, in a press briefing about the report.

Those who were hesitant about getting COVID vaccines might also now be hesitant about taking their children to get other vaccines, according to Peacock. “That’s something that we are watching very closely,” she said.

Loss of Trust in Public Health

Dr. Monica Gandhi, an expert in infectious diseases at the University of California, San Francisco, said the report reflects “increasing distrust of government and public health,” which she finds worrying.

“We have to be super clear and transparent about our messaging what COVID vaccines do to help increase trust in other vaccines,” Gandhi wrote on Twitter.

In an op-ed published last November in online magazine CommonWealth, the professor expressed concerns that the distrust surrounding the government’s handling of COVID-19 has spilled over into vaccines that used to have a rather positive public image.

“People who would have vaccinated their children in the past are starting to think differently about vaccines,” she wrote. “In addition to being a critical public health concern, this represents a serious issue with trust in public health authorities and their messengers.”

In a 2022 poll (pdf) conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard University among 1,305 American adults, only a little more than half of the respondents said they have a great deal of trust in the CDC.

The poll found other federal health agencies have even lower trust. Only 37 percent of respondents said they have a lot of trust in the National Institutes of Health or the Food and Drug Administration. Meanwhile, less than half of adults report having high trust in the American Red Cross (48 percent), their local health department (44 percent), and their state health department (41 percent).

Bill Pan

Bill Pan is a reporter for The Epoch Times.

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