Vaccination rates for kindergartners decreased during the pandemic

Published: Jan. 31, 2023 at 6:44 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The CDC is reporting vaccination rates for kindergartners decreased during the first year of the pandemic. Kindergartners entering schools in North Dakota need multiple vaccines as part of state law.

The CDC tracked a slight drop in state-required vaccines for kindergarteners nationwide during the height of the pandemic. From 2020 to 2021, the rate went from 95 percent vaccinated to 94 percent. Danni Pinnick, the state immunization surveillance coordinator, says this trend exists in North Dakota for a couple of reasons.

“Unfortunately, our rates have followed some of the national trends in terms of declining for kindergarteners, in many ways can be related to the pandemic because we had, you know, a large period of time where kids were not able to necessarily go to all of their regular wellness visits,” said Pinnick.

Pinnick says other reasons vaccination rates have gone down are parents hearing things that make them fearful of vaccines. A Mandan registered nurse has heard similar reasoning.

“I think since COVID, we’ve had a little bit of vaccine hesitancy, whether that’s just mistrust in the healthcare system or what, but we’ve definitely seen a decline in the rates. People are more hesitant,” said Cassy Keller, Mandan Public Schools.

The drop alarms experts for multiple reasons.

“We are kind of sitting at a rate of just below 95%. We need to be above 95% vaccinated in order to fully eradicate the diseases and to protect everybody in the school building,” said Keller.

Around the time children are entering kindergarten, even if they’ve been immunized for certain diseases, some don’t get boosters or the other requirements.

“We’re seeing that children are being immunized as babies and toddlers. And then when it’s time for them to come to kindergarten, since that year of 2021, a lot more parents are signing exemptions at that time,” said Keller.

Exemptions for vaccines can be filed for personal beliefs, religious exemptions, medical, or history of disease exemptions. Both women have also witnessed an uptick in exemptions.

Measles is one disease experts are especially worried about. It’s had its lowest coverage in a decade.