BISMARCK-North Dakota kindergarten vaccinations rates continue to rise.

The North Dakota Department of Health's 2017-18 kindergarten immunization rates have remained at about 94 percent for all required vaccines, the department reported Thursday, March 1, in a news release.

The Department of Health's goal is to get kindergarten vaccination rates to 95 percent. State health officials have worked with North Dakota State University's Center for Immunization Research and Education to increase rates that, in previous years, dipped below 90 percent.

"Outbreaks still occur in the United States due to pockets of low vaccination rates and the ease of travel," said Lexie Barber, an epidemiologist with the Department of Health. "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 are required to have five doses of DTaP, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis; four doses of the polio vaccination; three doses of the hepatitis B vaccine; two doses of the measles; mumps and rubella vaccine and two doses of the chickenpox vaccine.

The state Department of Health recently modified the deadline in which children must be vaccinated in order to attend school. For the 2017-18 school year, students must be up-to-date with their vaccinations by Oct. 1 or they will be excluded from school.

For more information on immunization requirements, visit www.ndhealth.gov/immunize.