Colorado ranks last nationwide for kindergarten vaccination rates and is well below the 95 percent vaccination rate needed to achieve herd immunity.
What is herd immunity? Many people are not able to get vaccines, such as babies or those with compromised immune systems. When a population reaches a certain vaccination rate, fewer people will get sick and spread diseases, protecting those who are unable to get vaccines themselves.
In 2017, 23,228 children attended Colorado schools without protection from one or more immunizations.
Low vaccination rates put vulnerable community members, such as infants too young to receive vaccinations, elderly members of our community, or those with compromised immune systems, at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases. Every $1 invested in immunization returns an estimated $16 in health-care savings and increased economic productivity.
Although vaccines have been proven to be both safe and effective based on sound scientific evidence, several myths have been spread, keeping vaccines at the center of controversy. Measles cases have reached a 25 year high, providing a stark reminder of the importance vaccinations provide in public health.
UNICEF says that “anti-vaccine groups have effectively exploited social media, creating confusion and stoking fears among parents, potentially undermining progress in reaching all children with vaccines”.
The CDC estimates that vaccinations will prevent more than 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths among children born in the last 20 years. And yet, many parents across our state are choosing not to vaccinate their children.
Hospital and emergency department charges to treat children in Colorado for vaccine-preventable diseases totaled more than $55 million in 2017. Actual costs, considering the costs of doctors’ office visits, medication, lost wages and decreased productivity, are much higher.
“Misinformation about vaccines is as dangerous as a disease”, said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “It spreads fast and poses an imminent threat to public health”.
The CDC reported 349 cases of measles in the US in 2018. At the beginning of 2019, an outbreak in the counties around New York City has grown to more than 200 cases and a newer outbreak of more than 40 people is ongoing in Oregon and southern Washington, an area with low vaccination rates.
Colorado is one of only 17 states that allow parents to exempt their children from immunizations required for child care facilities and schools due to their personal beliefs.