Now is the time to get children back on track with vaccines before the start of school

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As students head back to school this month, public health officials urge parents and guardians to get children back on track and caught up on their vaccines as soon as possible. Many vaccines are required for school and child care entry in Colorado, including measles, whooping cough, mumps, polio, and varicella (chickenpox). In addition to the vaccines required for school entry, there are several other vaccines that public health officials recommend to provide protection against other diseases, including meningococcal, hepatitis A, rotavirus, human papillomavirus, influenza, and COVID-19.

“Let’s do everything possible to make sure we have a healthy school year ahead. The easiest most effective way to make sure your child has a healthy school year, is to get them vaccinated. We’ve seen measles outbreaks in other parts of the United States and world. We can keep Colorado kids healthy by catching up on childhood vaccinations,” said Dr. Ned Calonge, chief medical officer, CDPHE.

Parents and guardians should talk with their child’s or adolescent’s health care provider or local public health agency about any questions they may have about vaccines, as well as to schedule an appointment. Vaccines required for school entry can be safely given with other vaccines, including COVID-19 and flu, and many children are eligible for low-cost or free vaccines. To find a free vaccine provider, parents and guardians can visit Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Aggregate, de-identified data self-reported to CDPHE by schools and child care providers for the 2022-2023 school year show:

  • Decreases in kindergarten, K-12, and child care vaccination rates for all vaccines, with the most pronounced decreases observed among kindergartners.
  • With the exception of hepatitis B (90.7%), immunization rates for school-required vaccines among kindergartners all fell below 90% for the second year in a row.
  • MMR coverage among kindergartners (86.8%) is the lowest since the 2017-2018 school year.
  • Exemption rates also increased across all school-required vaccines for kindergartens, K-12 schools, and child care facilities from the 2021-2022 school year.

“The data we’ve collected should provide parents and guardians with a warning signal that now is the time to make sure their children are vaccinated. We are so fortunate as a society to have access to these life saving vaccines, but we have to use them. It’s been a challenging few years for everyone, but now is the time to get up to date before we see outbreaks of these preventable diseases,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist, CDPHE.

CDPHE collected de-identified immunization and exemption data from:

  • 1,350 kindergartens, representing 63,890 students.
  • 1,963 K-12 schools, representing 871,167 students.
  • 1,666 child care and preschool facilities, representing 95,519 children.
  • While the compliance rate for child care students remained steady at 95.7%, only 88.4% of kindergartners and 91.9% of K-12 students were in compliance with school immunization rules, a decrease of 5.2% and 2.2% in compliance from 2021-2022 rates, respectively.

Data is gathered through a Colorado Board of Health rule that requires most schools and licensed child cares to report aggregate, de-identified immunization and exemption data to CDPHE annually. The information may change throughout the year. Public, private, and parochial schools with grades K-12, as well as child care centers, preschools, and Head Start programs licensed to provide care for 10 or more children, are all required to report. More information on Colorado’s 2022-2023 School and Child Care Immunization data, including detailed tables of immunization and exemption rates, can be found in CDPHE’s FAQ in English and Spanish.

CDPHE is here to help families to securely track their vaccines and make sure they're up to date. Additional resources include: