According to results of the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Kindergarten Survey, vaccination coverage for those entering school remains high, helping to ensure protection of students and classmates against multiple vaccine preventable diseases. The survey encompasses millions of children across the United States.
More than 90 percent of children enter Oklahoma public schools with all their immunizations up to date. The rate for private schools surveyed is below 85 percent. The rate for children entering school with their measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations is 92.6 percent, below the national average of 94.3 percent.
“While our immunization efforts statewide are commendable, it is obvious that we still have work to do to reach the nationwide target of 95 percent coverage for MMR,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley. “Unless we can assure that children entering school are protected through immunization, we are continuing to be at the risk of outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases.”
The statistics for Oklahoma represent 48,000 students from public and private schools whose schools responded to the survey. The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) in collaboration with the Oklahoma State Department of Education performs an annual assessment of children enrolled in kindergarten to determine how many children are fully vaccinated with age-appropriate vaccines upon school entry and what proportion of kindergarteners have a medical or non-medical exemption on file.
Oklahoma is following the national trend of a slight increase in the number of parents seeking exemptions from immunizations for their children. Compared to the findings of the 2016-17 Kindergarten Survey, Oklahoma’s exemption rate increased by 0.3%. The state’s overall exemption rate for any reason is 2.2 percent, which is equal to the national median rate. That figure includes a 5.9 percent exemption rate among private school students.
More private schools responded to the current survey than at any previous time. The OSDH utilized a combination of methods to increase participation from private schools in the Kindergarten Survey and validate a large proportion of the immunization records providing increased confidence in the results.
For the first time, the Kindergarten Survey provided a statistical breakdown by county. Tillman County was the only county to report a 100 percent immunization rate. Eighteen counties reported no immunization exemptions. The highest reported exemption rate was 4.7 percent in Dewey County. The county level information will help the OSDH provide targeted outreach to school districts that need assistance in raising immunization rates.