Arizona's childhood vaccination rates are declining
Fewer Arizona kindergarteners were up to date on recommended childhood vaccines this school year than in years past, according to new data from the Arizona Department of Health Services.
A decade ago, about 95% of Arizona kindergarteners were up to date on their measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. Now, that rate has declined to about 91%. Vaccination rates for polio, tetanus and other diseases have also declined statewide. Dr. Bob England, interim executive director of the Arizona Partnership for Immunization, said many of the state's schools are now well below immunization thresholds that are considered safe.
“With a disease that’s wildly contagious like measles, you need about 95% of kids in that school to be able to breathe easy that if you get a measles case brought in, it’s not going to spread,” England said.
While most Arizona children are still getting vaccines, England said a decrease of few percentage points can make a dangerous difference in a school setting.
“That means that they are sitting ducks for potential outbreaks," England said. "Most of these diseases spread really well among little kids."
Childhood vaccination rates are lowest in Yavapai County and highest in Santa Cruz County.
As rates have fallen statewide over the past 10 years, the number of parents seeking exemptions for required school vaccines for personal beliefs has increased. In 2012, 3.4% of students sought a personal belief exemption. This year, it was 6.6%.