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Healthcare

Report: Childhood Vaccination Rates Are Down Across North Texas

Children's Health's Beyond ABC report reveals that Collin and Denton County saw significant decreases in vaccinations during the pandemic.
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Fewer children were vaccinated this year seven North Texas counties than in 2017, according to Children Health’s latest Beyond ABC report. Childhood immunization rates took a significant hit during the pandemic and have yet to recover to 2017 levels.

Beyond ABC is a comprehensive biannual report assessing the health, economic security, safety, and education of children in North Texas, including Dallas, Tarrant, Collin, Denton, Grayson, Fannin, and Cooke counties.

The health section of the report notes the immunization rates for children from those seven counties for DTAP, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Mumps/Measles/Rubella, Polio, and Varicella. Nearly across the board, immunizations for 2023 are lower than in 2017, usually by a rate of 2-3 percent. Most counties experienced a significant drop in immunization rates between 2020 and 2021. Collin County experienced a 5 percent drop in most vaccinations and Denton saw between 7 and 10 percent drops for most vaccinations. The report used Texas Department of State Health Services data for the vaccination rate data.

While some of the immunization rate decreases in 2021 can be attributed to the pandemic and avoiding healthcare facilities, other rural and urban counties experienced less severe reductions in vaccination rates. Tarrant and Dallas counties experienced around 3 percent reductions between 2020 and 2021, while Fannin County saw rates hold steady and even increase in some instances during the pandemic.

The Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 67.2 percent of Texas children born in 2020 are considered fully vaccinated, which is good for the No. 42 state in the country. In 2021, only 86.2 percent of Denton County residents received the measles vaccine, the lowest of any of the vaccines in any of the counties in the report between 2017 and 2023.

There was a rise in vaccine skepticism before the pandemic, but confusion surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines exacerbated the issue. Vaccination rates have dropped across the country, with diseases that were considered defeated because of vaccines like polio and measles making appearances. In June, the state reported a confirmed case of measles in Hood County southwest of DFW. In August, another case of measles was confirmed in McCullough County in Central Texas.

But compared to other states, Texas has one of the highest rates of Measles/Mumps/Rubella immunizations in the country, at 94 percent according to KFF. The Centers for Disease Control recommends a rate of 95 percent to prevent community transmission. In December 2022, KFF found hat 71 percent of adults say healthy children should be required to get MMR to attend public school, down from 82 percent who said the same in an October 2019 Pew Research Center poll.

“The pandemic also saw a rise in vaccine skepticism and hesitancy. Factors fueling that rise included increased access to misinformation and declining trust in medical experts,” the report says. “Lower trust in vaccines may be one of the causes behind the decline in childhood vaccinations across North Texas and could create long-term health effects for children in the region.”

In addition to vaccine hesitancy, health coverage plays a factor as well. KFF found that less than half of uninsured children received their required vaccinations before 24 months. Texas leads the nation in the rate of children without health insurance. Nearly 12 percent of children were uninsured in 2021, more than twice the national average of 5.4 percent.

Still, the Beyond ABC report found that 90-95 percent of children received required vaccinations by the time they reached kindergarten.

Author

Will Maddox

Will Maddox

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Will is the senior writer for D CEO magazine and the editor of D CEO Healthcare. He's written about healthcare…

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