By Steven Reinberg
THURSDAY, Oct. 16, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Most American kids entering kindergarten are getting their required vaccinations, a new report shows.
Coverage for the 2013-2014 school year ranged from 95 percent for the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine to 94.7 percent for two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, and 93.3 percent for two doses of varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, the report found.
However, there was still a persistent 1.8 percent of kids whose parents didn't want their children vaccinated, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers noted.
"These vaccination rates remain the same as they were the previous year," said lead researcher Shannon Stokley, associate director of science at the CDC's immunization services division.
Stokley said the rate of parents who opt out of vaccinations differ by state, from a low of 0.1 percent in Mississippi to 7.1 percent in Oregon, which continues to have the highest rate of vaccine refusal in the United States.
Parents choose not to have their children vaccinated for a variety of reasons, she said. These include not understanding the reasons vaccinations are important, fear that the vaccines aren't safe and not believing that they're needed.
"These diseases aren't common and people forget that they are actually very serious, and we need to maintain the protection so these diseases don't come back," Stokley stressed.
The report was published Oct. 17 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Dr. Paul Offit, a professor of pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said that recent outbreaks of measles and whooping cough in the United States have popped up in groups of unvaccinated people.
"It's a dangerous game to play when you choose not to vaccinate," he said. "Because vaccines are safe, it's a risk not worth taking."
Pockets of unvaccinated children are largely in Vermont, Michigan, Oregon, Washington, California and Colorado, he said.
People who choose not to have their children vaccinated aren't afraid of the diseases -- they don't see them and they didn't grow up with them, Offit said.
But some of these diseases are emerging, he said. "Last year we had about 42,000 cases of whooping cough and about 25 deaths. This year, so far, we have had 594 cases of measles. That's bigger than anything we've had in about 20 years, and we really were measles-free before that," Offit said.
Offit thinks many parents are angry with those parents who won't have their children vaccinated.
"You are starting to see pushback among parents who are upset at those who choose not to vaccinate their children," he said. They are not only putting their own children at risk, he noted.
Vaccines work by creating what is known as "herd immunity." When that immunity breaks down, diseases can return. "When you see almost 600 cases of measles, that's what you would expect to see when herd immunity erodes, because it's the most contagious diseases that come back first, and that's what happened," Offit said.
Dr. Gloria Riefkohl, a pediatrician at Miami Children's Hospital, said getting vaccinated is important to protect kids from preventable diseases. "We are starting to see so many diseases that are not preventable that it is important to prevent the ones that can be," she said.
Riefkohl thinks parents should talk with their child's doctor about the benefits and risks of vaccination. "Doctors should be able to clear some of the doubts and misinformation so parents understand the importance of getting vaccinated," she said.