WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) – National childhood vaccination rates went down in kindergarteners last school year compared to the 2019-2020 school year, according to CDC data reports. Those numbers remain true for Wisconsin, according to data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Northcentral Wisconsin is at a 94% immunization rate, which is the national average. However, a doctor at Aspirus Health said there are still more conversations to be had with parents surrounding childhood vaccinations.
“We are not talking about COVID vaccinations or influenza vaccinations,” MD and regional medical director primary and specialty care AMG for Aspirus Health, Dr. Sonal Chandratre said. “This data is excluding those two vaccinations, we are just looking at the regularly scheduled vaccination for children.”
Data from the Wisconsin DHS reports that 76,000 children were vaccinated in Feb. 2022. In 2021, that number was at 81,000. In 2020, that number was even higher at 86,000. Then, from 2015 to 2019, the data shows that 100,000 children were immunized for regular vaccinations.
“It’s really important to see how the same time frame same month and most of these are the same in terms of you know, challenges, but we see that we are still far away behind in general in terms of vaccinations,” Dr. Chandratre explained. “It really does not make sort of a difference statistically to folks who just look at numbers, where they say, well, the drop just happened from 95% to 94%. We’re still good, but that 1% If you look nationally, it’s about 35,000 children and that is a huge difference.”
The data shows regular immunizations are on the decline, and that means children can be more susceptible to diseases and infections.
“And we don’t want them to go through all the negative impacts of not being vaccinated when the easiest way to prevent these diseases is by tiny vaccination,” she said.
But the question is, when do regular vaccinations and immunizations regularly happen?
“That’s an interesting question. So it’s only a flu vaccine that happens mostly during fall. But all of the other immunizations are really age-dependent,” she explained.
However, when it’s time for children aged 5 to 6 years old to go to school, that’s when immunization records are looked at. That’s also when families will be tracked down if their child needs to catch up before heading into the classroom.
But, what she said surprises her most, is that the biggest dip happened in April and May 2020, when the pandemic started.
“I do understand the challenges and the logistics of getting our children vaccinated. But now, we are in 2022. Obviously, we have seen the trend that was still very similar. We were catching up. But I see the same inertia of not getting our children vaccinated.”
Some of the other challenges she thinks have had an effect on the numbers include hesitancy to do regular wellness visits, inertia from previous years or even the masking mandates that are still in effect at hospitals and clinics.
The vaccinations seeing the biggest drops are measles, mumps, rubella and whooping cough.
“When your vaccination status is down, that means the community is more susceptible to an outbreak,” Dr. Chandratre said.
The most recent example is the 2019 measles outbreak that affected 31 states, including Wisconsin.
“I think learning from outbreaks is the worst possible way of learning the importance of vaccinations,” she explained.
She said she has a positive outlook on this because the only way from here is up by accessing the problem now.
“There is nobody who’s going to judge you as a parent or as a family. And we understand that there have been challenges, especially in the past year and a half. And so we are all on your side where we’re trying to be your ally and help you get your children back on track,” she explained.
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