Why Are Immunization Levels Falling? It is not just due to COVID-19 and Anti-Vax Attitudes

EJ Emmanual, M Guido. NY Times (12/28/22): Covid Isn’t the Only Reason Children’s Vaccination Rates Are Falling

Why does Mississippi have the best childhood immunization rates (99%)? This is due to state policies. This article reviews the small but significant drops in childhood immunizations which is opening the door for highly contagious diseases like measles.

Some excerpts:

U.S. routine childhood vaccination rates have historically been among the world’s best. But within the first year of the pandemic, the nation’s children missed nine million vaccine doses for diseases like polio and measles. Rates for the three major childhood immunizations — for measles, mumps and rubella; chickenpox; and diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis — fell by an average of 1.3 percentage points, with the rates in seven states and many cities falling under 90 percent…

Measles should not be taken lightly. The virus is highly contagious; according to the C.D.C., if one person has it, up to 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected. It can live up to two hours in the air. One to three of every 1,000 children who contract measles die of respiratory and neurological complications…

Covid vaccine acceptance and anti-vax attitudes do not fully explain differences among states. Neither do red-blue partisan affiliations or the strength of a state’s public health system. Instead, the decline is rooted in longstanding policies among some states that allow, for instance, for nonmedical exemptions, failures to rigorously enforce vaccination requirements and inadequate public health campaigns

Vaccines are one of the few true cost savers in medicine. The routine immunizations of children born from 1994 to 2018 are projected to prevent nearly one million early deaths and save nearly $1.9 trillion in economic costs — more than $5,700 for each American, according to the C.D.C. For measles, a state might spend more than $2 million responding to a single outbreak, with each case costing nearly $50,000 on average, according to an analysis of a recent outbreak in Washington State.

To avoid dangerous and costly outbreaks, states should introduce enforceable solutions that give their children and communities the best protections against vaccine-preventable infectious diseases.

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