By the 2021-22 school year, only one county in Washington met the federal target of 95% or more of children receiving all required immunizations before entering kindergarten.

No, he wasn’t a king.

The only county was Franklin in eastern Washington, where Pasco is located. According to data from the Washington State Department of Health, 1,550 of the county’s 1,600 kindergartners — about 96% — have completed all required immunizations by fall 2021.

Vaccination rates for kindergarteners in Washington have dropped, falling below 90 percent for the first time in two years. According to new data from the Department of Health, about 75,600 of Washington’s 85,000 kindergartners — that’s 89% — will have completed all required immunizations by fall 2021.

Washington State provides all recommended childhood immunizations at no cost to children under 18 years of age.

For the 2020-21 school year, 36 of the state’s 39 counties have seen a drop in kindergarten immunization rates. The only three where rates increased were Ferry, Grays Harbor and Franklin.

Washington has never ranked first in childhood vaccination rates. But when State law has changed In the year In 2019, to tighten the requirements for exemption from vaccination, the rates have increased. After years of kindergarten vaccination rates hovering around 85% to 86%, the rate rose to 90% in fall 2019.

After the outbreak was contained and schools closed, the rate still rose to 91 percent in fall 2020. That school year, preschool immunization coverage exceeded the federal goal of 95 percent in seven counties.

So you might think that in fall 2021, when schools reopen, the percentage of kindergarteners with full immunizations will continue to rise.

But that was not what happened.

In the 2021-22 school year, immunization rates dropped statewide, and in a few counties, the rates dropped. For example, in Jefferson County, where Port Townsend is located, only 69% of kindergartners have completed all required immunizations, down from 88% last year.

The decline in vaccination rates isn’t unique to Washington. It’s part of a national trend. In the 2020-21 school year, the proportion of kindergarten students in the US with all state-required immunizations dropped from 95% to about 94%. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And in 2021-22, the rate drops another percentage point to 93 percent.

Disruptions to school, child care, and physical health care have made it difficult for some families to keep track of the shooting.

Another possible explanation: Like all others, public health became politicized during the pandemic. Controversy has been swirling around Covid-19 vaccines, with heated debate over their feasibility and potential side effects, as well as the enforcement of vaccination mandates.

For some school-aged children, this may have reduced their confidence in government guidelines and vaccinations in general. Kaiser Family Foundation in December survey 28 percent of respondents said they thought parents should have the right to opt out of vaccinating their children, even if it increases health risks for others.

To be clear, the required immunizations for school children in Washington do not include the Covid-19 vaccine. Instead, they are designed to vaccinate against various childhood diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, tetanus, diphtheria, polio and so on – diseases that have been eradicated. Now, with vaccination rates declining, there are fears that these diseases could resurface.

Across the US, children must be vaccinated against childhood diseases before entering kindergarten, in both public and private schools. But every state allows medical exceptions, and most, including Washington, allow exemptions for religious or personal/philosophical reasons.

But in 2019 Washington law has changed. Prevent families from using personal or philosophical reasons to excuse their children from the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. That cut the rate of these types of exemptions by less than half from the 2018-19 level of 4.2 percent, and is also the main reason kindergarteners completed vaccinations increased in 2019.

But with personal/philosophical freedoms off the table for the MMR vaccine, religious freedoms have increased dramatically since 2019 — fewer than 100 children over 1,000. In fact, this was the biggest change for the 2021-22 school year. More than 1,900 kindergartens, or 2.2%, were exempt on religious grounds, up from 1.8% last year.

The counties with the highest vaccination rates were all in the East. and central In addition to Franklin County, Washington, Yakima, Douglas, Adams, Garfield and Chelan counties were all at 93 percent or higher.

The lowest rate was also in Eastern Washington. In less populated Pend Oreille County, only 58 of 86 kindergarten students completed their required immunizations, a rate of 67 percent.

In King County, 90% of kindergarten students completed their immunizations by fall 2021, down 2 percentage points from last year.

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