Declining Vaccination Rates

According to the CDC, vaccination rates for kids fell again last year. More than 250,000 kindergartners started school without their vaccinations. Are your kids among them? It’s important to keep up with your kids’ immunizations — especially when vaccination rates are declining across the nation. 

Vaccination rates are declining for adults, too. A new report shows that adult vaccinations have declined by 32% and teen rates by 36% compared with pre-pandemic levels. That works out to more than 37 million missed immunizations. 

What happens when people skip vaccines?

Many Americans didn’t keep up with routine healthcare during the pandemic. Whether this was the result of lockdowns, social distancing, overburdened healthcare facilities, or increasing vaccine hesitancy, this means that there are many more unvaccinated people walking around. 

When most people in a community are vaccinated, herd immunity helps to protect the few who are not vaccinated. People who are vaccinated are less likely to catch a disease. Imagine a room containing a group of 100 people, 99 of whom are immunized against measles. Now suppose someone with measles steps into the room with that group and stays for a visit before leaving. Most of the people they meet will be vaccinated. They may not come into contact with the one who is not vaccinated. If the infected person kisses or coughs on that one unvaccinated person, they probably will catch measles — it’s very contagious. But their chances of escaping the contact in a room of 100 people are good. If they do catch measles, they will still probably be the only person in the room who catches it. Vaccinated people are not likely to catch the disease.

Now imagine a room containing 100 people, but 15 of those people are unvaccinated. Bringing in one infected person is a different story in this room. They probably will encounter at least one unvaccinated person. Someone, and possibly several people, will probably catch measles. Even if the first infected person leaves, there will now probably be multiple infected people left in the room. The rest of the unvaccinated people will probably catch measles, and one or more of the vaccinated people might even get sick. The contagion will spread through the room until everyone is either vaccinated or develops natural immunity through catching and surviving the measles. There might be serious illnesses and even death.

These examples simplify the situation, but more unvaccinated people will increase the chances of more and more serious illnesses in a community just as in our simple examples. Obviously, unvaccinated people are in greater danger, but the whole community is likely to experience consequences. 

What vaccinations are we talking about?

Studies of childhood immunization rates show drops in all the required vaccines, including measles, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and chickenpox. 

The adult vaccines included in the study mentioned above were these:

  • Influenza
  • Haemophilus influenza (Hib)
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Meningococcal ACWY
  • Meningococcal B
  • Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR)
  • Pneumococcal
  • Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis (Tdap)
  • Varicella Zoster (Chickenpox)
  • Herpes Zoster (Shingles)

Talk with your family doctor to make sure that all your vaccinations — and those of your children — are up to date.