Childhood immunization data concern public health officials

Submitted by the Washington State Department of Health.

The Washington State Department of Health has updated the state’s childhood immunization rate data, which shows that many school-aged children missed recommended vaccines in 2020. The decreases in pre-teen vaccine rates are especially concerning. These data are now available on a public dashboard. The update includes 2020 rates by immunization type.

Immunization rates remained steady from 2019 to 2020 among toddlers, young children, and teenagers. But 4 to 6-year-olds saw a slight drop in vaccination rates (around 2 to 3 percentage points), and there were significant drops in rates for 11 and 12-year-olds.

“I’m concerned about how many of our Washington kids are vulnerable to serious but preventable diseases,” said Acting Assistant Secretary Michele Roberts. “We need to get children caught up now on vaccines they missed. They are headed back to school soon, and flu activity often picks up in the fall, so let’s get them protected before they’re exposed.”

Some of the notable drops seen among the 11 and 12-year-olds were:

• An 11% decrease in Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough) vaccine, from 60.3% in 2019 to 49.2% in 2020. One dose of Tdap is required to enter 7th grade in Washington state.

• An 8.4% decrease in meningococcal vaccine, from 50.7% in 2019 to 42.3% in 2020.

• A 5.6% decrease in HPV vaccine, from 42.0% in 2019 to 36.4% in 2020. The HPV vaccine prevents several types of cancer and is more effective when given at the recommended age.

• A 6% decrease in the proportion receiving the 1:1:1 series (1 dose of Tdap, 1 or more doses of meningococcal vaccine, and 1 or more doses of HPV vaccine) from 39.4% in 2019 to 33.4% in 2020.

“August being National Immunization Awareness Month reminds us this is a great time of year to make that vaccine appointment with your child’s provider and get them caught up,” Roberts added. “Providers are taking many precautions to keep families safe during preventive visits. It’s also convenient to protect your older ones against COVID-19 since kids who are 12 and up can get the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as the rest of their vaccines. Let’s get everyone back to school safely after the disruption of the last two school years knowing we’re protecting them from outbreaks of many diseases.”