For Immediate Release: May 8, 2019
Vermont Department of Health
802-951-5153 / 802-863-7281
Vaccination Data Shows Most Children Getting Recommended Immunizations
Areas of low vaccination rates are a public health concern as measles cases rise in the U.S.
BURLINGTON – Newly released child care and school immunization data from the Vermont Department of Health shows that while a high number of Vermont children in child care and school have received all their required vaccines, a significant number of children are under-vaccinated – creating a danger that vaccine-preventable diseases like measles can take hold and spread.
Each year, the Health Department collects vaccination coverage data from all Vermont public and independent schools. Coverage data is also collected from regulated child care facilities in coordination with the state’s Department for Children and Families. The data is available at healthvermont.gov/disease-control/immunization/vaccination-coverage.
Among regulated child care programs, which represent 59% of all Vermont children younger than age 5, nearly 94% met all vaccine requirements for their age, up slightly from the previous year. The percentage of children with a religious exemption was unchanged at 2.6%, and 0.2% of children in child care had a medical exemption. Vermont eliminated the philosophical exemption in 2015.
The percentage of Vermont K-12 students receiving all required immunizations is 94.5%, the highest it has been since the Department began collecting this data in 2012. The percentage of K-12 students with a medical exemption remained steady at 0.2%, religious exemptions increased 0.2 percentage points to 3.1%.
For those children entering kindergarten, the percentage who have a religious exemption increased from 3.7% to 4.4%. None the less, having all required vaccinations is still the norm for kindergarten students in Vermont. Religious exemption levels were significantly higher among children entering kindergarten in independent schools at 13.1% compared to 3.8% for public schools.
The immunization data also offers a look at coverage rates for specific vaccines, such as the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. To protect against measles, for example, 95% of children in a child care or school setting must be immunized with the MMR vaccine. This creates a level of “community immunity” that can keep the disease from spreading. In Vermont, 97.4% of public school students met the two-dose requirement for the MMR vaccine. Coverage is lower among independent schools, some significantly so, with several in the 40% range.
“Thanks to good immunization coverage in the U.S., the terrible toll of many vaccine-preventable diseases like polio, and until recently, measles, has been a thing of the past,” said Christine Finley, immunization program manager at the Department of Health. “Many Vermont schools have achieved vaccination rates that are worth celebrating,” said Finley.
“But the number of schools throughout the state that have low vaccination rates is a cause for concern,” Finley said. “In some schools, both public and independent, rates are so low that there is serious potential for the rapid spread of dangerous diseases like measles.” The department’s data shows that of the K-12 schools, 114 had an MMR vaccination rate of less than the 95% rate needed for community immunity against measles.
Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD said this is a call to action. “Measles is making a comeback across the globe. That means we are seeing the disease again in places where we haven’t seen it in decades, and people need to make sure that they and their children are protected.”
Parents, caregivers, and all Vermonters are encouraged to talk with their doctors and make sure they and their children are up to date on all recommended vaccinations. The Health Department’s immunization web page features information about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases, including information about which immunizations adults and children should have.
Dr. Levine said the department is working to ensure that school principals, parents, community members and municipal leadership are all aware of where under-vaccination exists, to review the rate data, and to have the information they need to directly address it.
“Misinformation about the safety of vaccines is a significant factor contributing to the outbreaks,” said Dr. Levine. “We encourage concerned parents and caregivers to ask questions. Talk with your child’s pediatrician and get the evidence-based information you need to protect yourself, your family and your community.
“We have the ability to stop vaccine-preventable diseases,” Dr. Levine said. “In the midst of a national epidemic, now is the time for Vermonters to do all they can to protect themselves and prevent an outbreak from occurring in our state.”
See the school immunization rates: healthvermont.gov/disease-control/immunization/vaccination-coverage
Learn more about immunizations: healthvermont.gov/disease-control/immunization
Find out more about measles: healthvermont.gov/disease-control/measles
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