AUSTIN (KXAN) — A Center for Disease Control report said the vaccination rate for kindergarten students across the United States has dipped lower for a second year in a row – an Austin pediatrician said she has seen that trend in her practice.
The report details that during the 2021-22 school year coverage decreased to 93% for all state-required vaccines – a one point drop from the previous school year.
Vaccines the CDC were counting with this number are all state-required vaccines. In Texas, those include measles, mumps and rubella vaccine- often referred all together as MMR vaccine, among others depending on a child’s age.
While the number of vaccine exemptions remained low nationwide at 2.6%, an additional 3.9% of kindergartners without exemptions were not up to date on their MMR vaccinations.
Dr. Juliet Owens, a pediatrician with GROW Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, said she has seen that same trend reflected in patients that come through her practice.
Families will come in for initial vaccinations but don’t follow up with boosters. She attributes several factors, including the pandemic, for that failure to come back in.
“I think the pandemic definitely delayed childhood well visits. People losing their jobs probably affected children being insured. and child health insurance, of course, affects access to vaccines,” said Dr. Owens.
She said time and other economic factors can also come into play when families in need of free shots make efforts to stay up to date as well.
“Austin has a program called Shots for Tots for people who don’t have insurance to get their child’s vaccines. If you don’t have insurance, it’s hard to get your kids vaccinated – you have to almost take a whole day off of work just to wait in line,” said Dr. Owens.
Dr. Owens says education has become an important part of her job. After several years of heated debate over vaccinations, she says parents these days need a bit of reassurance before their child gets vaccinated.
“Oftentimes they will tell a story about a family member or someone that they know that had a vaccine reaction. We go through the list of possible vaccine reactions, how to treat them, what to watch for, and make sure that they know that their pediatrician is accessible. And oftentimes, that’s all that that it takes to make a parent comfortable,” said Dr. Owens.