The importance of childhood vaccinations – and how to get back on track

Published: August 23, 2022

Author: Krishnan Narasimhan, MD, chair of family medicine at Stamford Health

The word “vaccination” may bring to mind the vaccine for COVID-19, but it should also remind you to update your children’s regular vaccination schedule.

In Connecticut, the pandemic has disrupted many families’ routine health care schedules, including those for children’s vaccinations. The Connecticut Department of Public Health has noted a recent decline in the percentage of K-12 school children who are vaccinated to protect against diseases such as polio, measles, and tetanus.

According to the health department, the overall vaccination rate against polio, measles, and tetanus was between 95% and 96% during the 2020-2021 school year, lower than the school year before the pandemic began, and lower than the 2012-13 school year, when it was 97%.

The state bases these rates on kindergarteners and 7th graders because they represent the age groups that need particular rounds of vaccines. The percentage of Connecticut kindergarten students not getting school-required vaccines is at 2.1%, which is up from the eight-year average of 1.2%. The greatest drop in vaccination rates (4-5%) has occurred among 7th graders needing the booster that prevents against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough (Tdap), as well as the meningococcal (MCV) vaccine that protects against the bacteria that can cause meningitis.

In Connecticut, we have also seen significant decreases in vaccination rates for measles with a decrease of 0.9% from the previous year and a drop of 1.8% since 2012–2013. To date, Connecticut’s measles vaccination rate has dropped to 95% for kindergarteners. To achieve herd immunity for measles, 95% of the population must be vaccinated or have had the disease. In the past, decreased rates of vaccination for measles, which is highly contagious, have led to outbreaks not only in our region, but also other parts of the world.

Gaps in vaccination can diminish immunity and require children to start the series all over again. This is why it is important to stick to a recommended vaccine schedule.

I know many parents have had questions regarding the new COVID-19 vaccine and don’t know how to go forward on other vaccinations. It’s OK to have these concerns. But I can assure you that childhood vaccines have a long history of being safe and effectively protecting our children from very serious childhood infectious diseases.

If you haven’t already done so, please schedule an appointment with your family medicine physician or your children’s pediatrician to discuss any concerns you have about vaccination and the shots that they need. You might also check out the Centers for Disease Control vaccine information page, which is great for learning about vaccination.

It’s time to get back on schedule!

About the Author

Krishnan Narasimhan, MD, is the chair of the family medicine department at Stamford Health.

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