As a pediatrician, I encourage all parents to add vaccination to their back-to-school checklist. From newborns to college, you can help protect your children from 16 serious diseases by getting them vaccinated. Unfortunately, many Idaho children aren’t being vaccinated, leaving them susceptible to diseases that can be both serious and deadly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Idaho led the nation in school immunization exemption rates during the 2014-2015 school year. The data also shows during the 2017-2018 school year, 7.1 percent of Idaho kindergarteners had an exemption on file for at least one vaccine when they registered for school.
These exemption rates are concerning as having a high percentage of students who are not fully protected can put other students at risk, especially children who cannot receive vaccine protection because of medical conditions.
Some parents declare an exemption during school registration when they discover their child is missing one or more vaccines but don’t want to delay registration. That becomes risky to their own children and others when they don’t follow up and actually get their child the vaccine or vaccines they need.
Not only should parents be worried about their child’s health when left unvaccinated, but their child’s education is at risk as well. If a measles outbreak occurred in an Idaho school, an unimmunized child would be told to stay home until the spread of the disease was no longer a threat. In the case of measles, that’s a minimum of 21 days.
Thankfully, the occurrence of vaccine preventable diseases has been greatly reduced over the years in the United States, but outbreaks do occur.
The United States is currently experiencing a measles outbreak. According to the CDC, 107 people from 21 states diagnosed with the highly contagious disease since January of this year. Measles has been diagnosed in our neighboring states Oregon, Washington and Nevada.
Currently, we are also experiencing a whooping cough outbreak in southern Idaho. Whooping cough is particularly dangerous for infants and young children. With more than 122 diagnosed cases, more are expected as children go back to school.
Idaho communities with large numbers of unvaccinated people are the most at risk when outbreaks happen since measles spreads very quickly. Local pockets of people missing vaccinations leave entire communities vulnerable to outbreaks.
It’s up to all Idaho parents to do their part to protect their own children and others from these vaccine-preventable diseases.
For more information on all back to school vaccines visit https://www.getimmunizedidaho.org
Written by Dr. Alicia Lachiondo, a St. Luke’s pediatrician and a Get Immunized, Idaho coalition spokesperson.