Jan. 12, 2023 -- For the second straight year, the percentage of schoolchildren immunized against measles fell below a critical rate necessary to prevent the virus from spreading in the community, federal health officials say.

More than 250,000 kids who started kindergarten last fall might be at risk, with only 93% having protection against measles, a potentially fatal and highly infectious disease, according to CDC data.

It’s the second year in a row that coverage against measles, mumps, and rubella dipped below 95%, which is necessary to prevent it from spreading. Kids haven’t been at that rate of protection since before the coronavirus pandemic began.

CDC data also shows that kindergarten immunization rates are continuing to fall against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, and chickenpox. 

“We know measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination coverage for kindergartners is the lowest it has been in over a decade … and that is something to be concerned about,” Georgina Peacock, the CDC’s director of immunization services, said in a briefing.

The Washington Post said health officials are concerned about the growing number of parents who are against vaccines, noting that this can be associated with the political beliefs related to the COVID-19 vaccine. Officials say this could cause dangerous outbreaks of diseases typically prevented by vaccines. For example, more than 100 kids got measles in recent outbreaks in Minnesota and Ohio. 

Lower immunization rates also are partly due to pandemic school closures and fewer kids seeing doctors.

Measles is a serious disease, sometimes causing death. It also wears down a child’s immunity and makes him or her weaker against other illnesses such as pneumonia and diarrhea.

Sean O’Leary, a pediatric infectious diseases doctor, called recent outbreaks “alarming.” Vaccination “equips children’s immune systems to recognize and resist disease so they can develop and live healthy lives into adulthood,” he said at the briefing.

Show Sources

CDC: “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Summary.”

The Washington Post: “Slide in measles vaccination rate among kindergartners raises alarm.”

© 2023 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info