Kindergarten vaccination rates increasing

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Immunization rates in Stark County and for North Dakota have increased over the past few years, according to data from the North Dakota Department of Health.

Data from the 2017-18 school immunization assessment shows that North Dakota's kindergarten immunization rates have remained at about 94 percent for all required vaccines. In the past two years, rates have increased significantly after spending previous years at or below 90 percent. The school immunization assessment is conducted annually by the NDDoH.

"Outbreaks still occur in the United States due to pockets of low vaccination rates and the ease of travel," Lexie Barber, epidemiologist with the NDDoH, said. "That's why immunizations are so important. For example, an MMR, or measles, mumps, and rubella, vaccine coverage rate of 95 percent is recommended to maintain herd immunity in schools and prevent outbreaks of diseases such as measles. That's why 95 percent is our goal."

Before entering school in North Dakota, children must have five doses of DTaP, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis, four doses of IPV (polio), three doses of HBV (hepatitis B), two doses of MMR, and two doses of varicella (chickenpox) vaccine.

During the 2015-16 school year, Stark County kindergarten immunization rates were around 82 percent for polio, 90 percent for DTaP, 89 percent for MMR, 92 percent for hepB and 88 percent for varicella. Rates for the 2014-15 school year were lower as well, with about 82 percent of kindergarteners being vaccinated for the five required immunizations.

However, Brett Kallis, director of nurses at Southwest District Health Unit, said numbers in the county have been improving recently.

"Stark County's rates have been improving over the last couple years, thanks to all of our local providers and schools," Kallis said in an email to The Press. "There is still room for improvement though."

In Stark County during the 2017-18 school year, kindergarten immunization rates were around 92 percent for polio, 91 percent for DTaP, 91 percent for MMR, 92 percent for HepB and 91 percent for varicella, according to data from the North Dakota Department of Health.

During the 2016-17 school year, Stark County kindergarten immunization rates were around 95 percent for polio, 94 percent for DTaP, 94 percent for MMR, 95 percent for HepB and 95 percent for varicella.

With the 2018-2019 school year, students entering seventh through 12th grade will need one dose of Tdap, the health department said. Students in grades seventh through 10th will need one dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) and students entering 11th and 12th grades will need two doses of MCV4.

Children can be vaccinated at local public health units or private health care providers.

For the 2018-2019 school year, students must be up-to-date with their vaccinations by Oct. 1 or be excluded.

Kallis said immunizations are important because they are preventive.

"As parents, nurses, doctors and other providers, we all try to keep our kids from getting sick or having to deal with hardships that could be prevented. Immunizations are another way to help keep them healthy," she said.