Back-to-school vaccinations are more important than ever

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    Colorado Department of
    Public Health and Environment

    As students across Colorado head back to school, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) asks parents and guardians to keep vaccine-preventable diseases out of Colorado classrooms and help ensure continued and safe in-person learning. 

    While children 11 years old and younger are not yet eligible for any of the COVID-19 vaccines, there are other vaccines that protect them from 16 other infectious diseases, including measles, whooping cough, mumps and varicella (chickenpox). The state is experiencing decreases in vaccination coverage as identified through aggregate, de-identified data self-reported to the CDPHE by schools and child care providers for the 2020-2021 school year. 

    With the exception of hepatitis B, immunization rates for school-required vaccines fell among kindergartners — with coverage for polio and varicella falling below 90 percent.

    Statewide rates among Colorado child care facilities fell for all seven school-required vaccines, though coverage rates remained at or above 93 percent.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has directly affected the delivery of routine vaccinations in Colorado and elsewhere. From mid-March 2020 through mid-April 2020, data from the Colorado Immunization Information System showed a 37.8 percent decline in childhood and adolescent vaccines administered per week compared to the same time the previous year. From mid-April 2020 through mid-March 2021, the data showed a decline of 5.5 percent. 

    Children who are not protected by vaccines are more vulnerable to preventable diseases such as measles and whooping cough. 

    “Staying up-to-date on existing vaccinations is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Heather Roth, immunization branch chief, Division of Disease Control and Public Health Response with the CDPHE. “The last thing we want is an outbreak of any kind, especially when it’s easily preventable. Let’s keep our focus on slowing the spread of COVID-19 and do what we can to give our children the best chance at safe in-person learning this school year.”

    Colorado has tools to help parents and guardians make informed choices about vaccinating their children.

    • COVax4Kids.org helps people find out if their children are eligible for low- or no-cost vaccines and helps them find a provider who gives them.

    • COVaxRecords.org directs people on how to request vaccination records for their children.

    • COVID19.colorado.gov/well-child provides more information about the safety of well-child checkups during the pandemic.

    • COVaxRates.org makes it easy for people to look up vaccination and exemption rates for schools and child care facilities in Colorado so they can make the best decision for their children.