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Childhood immunization rates decline in Washington state during pandemic

Washington State Chief Science Officer Dr. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett said vaccines are the best tools we have to protect kids from getting sick from preventable diseases.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A new report shows routine childhood immunization rates have decreased during the pandemic, dropping by 13% in 2021 when compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to Washington state health officials.

The Washington State Department of Health said Thursday that in response, the Department of Health, health care providers and other agencies are working with people to catch up and remain current on routine immunizations.

“The pandemic has been difficult for everyone. Disruptions to schooling, childcare and in-person health care made it hard for some families to stay up to date on their shots,” said Dr. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, the state's chief science officer. “We encourage parents and caregivers to schedule their well-child visits as soon as possible, to make sure their kids are happy, healthy, meeting developmental milestones, and ready for school.”

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The report, compiled by the Department of Health, compares routine childhood vaccination rates in Washington from 2021 to averages from 2015 to 2019.

Rates were found to have declined the most in younger children, with vaccinations decreasing 9.6% in the 19-to-35-month age group. They decreased 3.9% in those ages 4 to 6 and decreased 3.6% for those ages 11 and 12.

For teens ages 13 to 17, however, vaccinations increased 1.8%, state health officials said.

Washington state provides all recommended childhood vaccines at no cost to children through the age of 18.

Vaccines are the best tools we have to protect kids from getting sick from preventable diseases,” said Kwan-Gett.

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