Immunizations: Most kids received disease-preventing shots, figures show

Most kids received shots, though rates of exemption higher than state average

A single-dose vial of the measles-mumps-rubella virus vaccine live, or MMR vaccine is shown at the practice of Dr. Charles Goodman in Northridge, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015.  Some doctors are adamant about not accepting patients who don’t believe in vaccinations, with some saying they don’t want to be responsible for someone’s death from an illness that was preventable. Others warn that refusing treatment to such people will just send them into the arms of quacks. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) Enlargephoto

A single-dose vial of the measles-mumps-rubella virus vaccine live, or MMR vaccine is shown at the practice of Dr. Charles Goodman in Northridge, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. Some doctors are adamant about not accepting patients who don’t believe in vaccinations, with some saying they don’t want to be responsible for someone’s death from an illness that was preventable. Others warn that refusing treatment to such people will just send them into the arms of quacks. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

In mid-June, the World Health Organization verified that Bhutan and Maldives, both developing nations, have eliminated measles, after not having any cases for at least five years.

Meanwhile, Colorado has seen at least one case of measles every year for the past five years, and already this year, more than 60 cases of mumps have been reported. Both are vaccine-preventable diseases.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has collected data about immunization and exemption percentages in every school district in the state. CDPHE’s aim is for 95 percent of a population to be vaccinated for herd immunity to kick in.

For the smaller districts in Southwest Colorado, the percentage of students immunized ranges from 97.7 percent at Dolores County High in Dove Creek to 87.0 percent at Bayfield Elementary.

In the bigger Southwest Colorado districts, immunization rates vary between schools. In Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1, Manaugh Elementary was on the high end with 96.4 percent of its students immunized; Lewis-Arriola, Children’s Kiva Montessori and Pleasant View Elementary had rates in the 80s; Battle Rock Charter School reported 52.8 percent of its students were up to date on immunizations and exemptions were on record for 43.8 percent. In Durango School District 9-R, four attendance centers had vaccination rates between 93 and 94 percent; six were between 80 and 90 percent.

What was true across the board was that districts in this part of the state were doing a good job of keeping vaccination records. The number of incomplete records, records in process or students for which no record was on file were very small. That’s important because in the case of an outbreak, school officials have a clear idea of who is protected and who is not.

With the statistics released by CDPHE, parents now have a clearer picture of the risk of a vaccine-preventable illness taking hold in their children’s schools. A higher percentage of fully immunized students leaves fewer who can spread vaccine-preventable diseases, which are life-threatening for some students.

This is a valuable tool for parents to gauge a potential health risk to their children. Immunization requirements exist for a good reason; these numbers show the state’s requirement has come close to achieving the important goal of protecting all children, either through immunization or through herd immunity. Depending on the former is a wise choice.