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Falling childhood vaccination rates in Washington 'concerning' for health department

The state's Department of Health said the most significant drops in vaccination were seen in those aged 11 to 12 years old.

SEATTLE — The Washington Department of Health (DOH) released “concerning” data Monday showing fewer children in certain age groups received common vaccinations in 2020 compared to past years.

The decrease saw slight drops in children 4 to 6 years old and significant drops in those 11 to 12 years old.

The information was released amid the COVID-19 pandemic and confirms many health experts’ fears that routine vaccinations for things like meningitis were being forgone as people avoided clinics and hospitals.

However, with flu season on the horizon and a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant, the DOH is urging parents to get their children protected, especially because many of them are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

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“August being National Immunization Awareness Month reminds us this is a great time of year to make that vaccine appointment with your child’s provider and get them caught up,” said DOH Acting Assistant Secretary Michele Roberts.

According to the DOH, the state saw an 11% decrease among 11-year-olds and 12-year-olds in Tdap vaccinations, a dose of which is required to enter seventh grade in Washington. This protects students against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.

There was also an 8.4% decrease in Meningococcal vaccines, which protects against meningitis and septicemia.

“Providers are taking many precautions to keep families safe during preventive visits. It’s also convenient to protect your older ones against COVID-19 since kids who are 12 and up can get the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as the rest of their vaccines,” Roberts said.

As the back-to-school season kicks into full gear and parents, students and teachers are preparing for a return to in-person learning, staff may also be required to roll up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Seattle Public Schools is mandating vaccinations for all school staff. State Superintendent Chris Reykdal asked Gov. Jay Inslee to make the mandate statewide.

Inslee is expected to announce his decision this week.


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