GLENDALE: The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced today that it exceeded its one-year goal to have 90% of kindergartners vaccinated for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) by June 30, 2020. In meeting the goal, 2,289 more children were vaccinated over the last school year, bringing the state’s kindergarten MMR rate for the 2019-2020 school year to 91% — a 3.7% increase. Two doses of the vaccine are required by kindergarten entry.
“Way to go, Colorado! This accomplishment represents a significant collaboration between state and local public health agencies, parents, schools, and community partners,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Highlighting this achievement lets us also emphasize the importance of staying up-to-date on routine childhood vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
These efforts likely resulted in increased rates for other vaccines. Data for the 2019-2020 school year show vaccination rates for school-required vaccines increased among Colorado K-12 schools. Statewide rates among kindergartners rose significantly for four other school-required vaccines as well, which now all have rates over 90%: polio, chickenpox, hepatitis B, and diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP).
While kindergarten vaccination rates have significantly improved, public health, parents, and partners must continue working to maintain these levels and ensure the COVID-19 pandemic does not reverse the state’s progress. The state recently has seen a decrease in vaccinations being administered to children and teens. From mid-March through mid-July, data from the Colorado Immunization Information System show an average 19% decline in childhood and adolescent vaccines administered per week compared to the same time period last year.
“Parents and guardians may have been understandably concerned about taking their children for vaccinations during the pandemic,” said Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “But we want to assure them it’s safe to resume these visits, and it’s critical to keep kids’ vaccinations up to date. Not doing so puts our state at risk for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, unnecessarily complicating Colorado’s COVID-19 response.”
State and local public health agencies work continually to increase vaccination rates and ensure people can access affordable vaccinations. This work includes the collaboration that helped the state attain the MMR goal. Using existing resources, the department provided technical assistance, media toolkits, strategies, local kindergarten MMR data and targets, and lists of elementary schools with low rates to each local public health agency. Agencies chose the strategies that made the most sense for their community, including a digital media campaign in the Denver metro area, vaccination reminder/recall, working with schools to improve compliance, running measles outbreak tabletop exercises with schools, and offering incentives to families.
The school and child care data website, covaxrates.org, lets people look up and compare vaccination and exemption rates for Colorado schools and child care facilities, across districts and counties. The data represent a single point in time. Schools and child care facilities submitted data for the 2019-2020 school year between October 2019 and January 2020, before the pandemic began. Schools report only de-identified, aggregate data.
Colorado has tools to help parents and guardians make informed choices about vaccinating their children.
- SpreadTheVaxFacts.com guides people through information and misinformation about vaccines with advice from Colorado doctors who also are parents.
- COVax4Kids.org helps people find out if their kids are eligible for low- or no-cost vaccines and helps them find a provider who gives them.
- COVaxRecords.org lets people know how to request vaccination records for their children.
For more information about the safety of well-child checkups during the pandemic, visit our COVID-19 and well-child checkups page