BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota health officials say routine childhood immunization rates have declined during the coronavirus pandemic.
The measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination rate for North Dakota children from 19 months to 35 months decreased more than 6% between December 2019 to December 2022 to about 78%, according to the state Department of Health.
Measles is a contagious disease that can cause serious complications, health officials said. Prior to the measles vaccine being available in 1963, between 400 and 500 people died and 48,000 were hospitalized each year due to measles.
The meningococcal meningitis vaccination rate for North Dakota teens ages 13 to 17 decreased more than 5% in the same time frame to about 86%.
The kindergarten-entry MMR vaccination rate decreased about 2% to 92% in 2021-2022 school year, KX News reported.
“Ensuring children are up-to-date on routine, wellness immunizations is the best way to keep children healthy and stop the spread of potentially serious illnesses in our childcares, schools, and community,” said Molly Howell, the health department's immunization director.
The Department of Health has launched a statewide immunization awareness campaign called “Pay Attention to Prevention.”
“Children who are not immunized are not only at risk of becoming ill from a variety of diseases, but are also able to transmit diseases to others, including those who may not be able to be vaccinated due to various medical conditions or age,” Howell said.
North Dakota state law requires children attending childcare and students in grades kindergarten through 12 to meet a minimum number of required immunizations prior to enrollment.