A smaller portion of U.S. children got routine vaccinations required for kindergarten during the pandemic, government researchers said Thursday, raising concerns that measles and other preventable diseases could increase.
Rates were close to 94 percent for measles, whooping cough and chickenpox vaccinations for the 2020-21 school year. That was down 1 percent from a year earlier and means 35,000 U.S. children entered kindergarten without evidence that they were vaccinated for extremely contagious diseases, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report.
In addition, almost 400,000 fewer children than expected entered kindergarten and their vaccination status is uncertain, the CDC said.
Pandemic-related disruptions likely contributed to the decline, the report said, as pediatricians canceled non-emergency appointments, parents skipped checkups for their children and vaccine requirements were eased for students doing remote learning.
“We haven’t seen outbreaks and that’s probably representative of the fact that families were staying home during the pandemic,’’ said Dr. Georgina Peacock, the CDC’s director of immunization services. But authorities worry that could change if kids remain behind on their shots as more people return to normal routines.
Data for the current school year, due in November, should indicate whether the lag persisted, said the CDC’s Shannon Stokley.
The data come from schools’ reports on vaccination rates in 47 states plus Washington, D.C. The CDC said staffing shortages and other pandemic disruptions could have led to incomplete or absent school reports, a limitation in assessing the true vaccination rates.
In 16 states, rates for kids entering kindergarten were at least 95 percent for measles shots and for the combination diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough shot. The rates were below 90 percent for the combined whooping cough shot in eight states plus Washington, D.C., and in seven states plus Washington, D.C., for measles shots.
For chickenpox vaccinations, 17 states had rates of at least 95 percent and nine plus Washington, D.C., had rates below 90 percent.
By Associated Press Writer Lindsey Tanner
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How to get tested
Tampa Bay: The Times can help you find the free, public COVID-19 testing sites in Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties.
Florida: The Department of Health has a website that lists testing sites in the state. Some information may be out of date.
The U.S.: The Department of Health and Human Services has a website that can help you find a testing site.
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How to get vaccinated
The COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5 and up and booster shots for eligible recipients are being administered at doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores and public vaccination sites. Many allow appointments to be booked online. Here’s how to find a site near you:
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Find a site: Visit vaccines.gov to find vaccination sites in your ZIP code.
More help: Call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance Hotline.
Phone: 800-232-0233. Help is available in English, Spanish and other languages.
Disability Information and Access Line: Call 888-677-1199 or email DIAL@n4a.org.
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More coronavirus coverage
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KIDS AND VACCINES: Got questions about vaccinating your kid? Here are some answers.
BOOSTER SHOTS: Confused about which COVID booster to get? This guide will help.
BOOSTER QUESTIONS: Are there side effects? Why do I need it? Here’s the answers to your questions.
PROTECTING SENIORS: Here’s how seniors can stay safe from the virus.
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