By Laura Luzietti, MD, Medical Director
Childhood immunizations are one of the most important ways that parents can protect their children from disease. As a Pediatrician and a mom of four children, I am concerned about the growing number of parents who decline the recommended vaccines or choose to delay the vaccine schedule.
Colorado has the lowest immunization rate for kindergarten students of any state in the nation. Less than 89% of children entering kindergarten have received all of the recommended vaccines. The national average is 94%. Our immunization rate in Colorado is below the level needed to protect communities from disease outbreaks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
At Every Child Pediatrics, where I serve as the Medical Director, we care for nearly 24,000 patients each year. As a non-profit organization, we see all children regardless of their insurance status or their ability to pay. The majority of our patients are from low-income households. Through our work with the Vaccines For Children program, we are able to provide immunizations to uninsured children. Despite these efforts, there are still children throughout the state who do not have access to primary care including routine vaccinations. We have more work to do as a state to reach these children.
Many children, however, do not receive recommended vaccines because their parents have chosen to decline or delay vaccines. Throughout my career, I have counseled many vaccine-hesitant parents. Some have made the decision to proceed with immunizations and some have not. All of these parents made decisions based on what they believed to be the safest choice for their children. Unfortunately, many parents obtain information about vaccines from unreliable sources on the internet. The science behind immunizations is clear. They are safe and effective in preventing devastating diseases.
Measles continues to spread across the nation, with over 1,000 identified cases in 28 states. Due to our suboptimal immunization rates, Colorado is at high risk for an outbreak. Most parents of young children have never seen a child suffering from measles infection, but it is important for them to know that it is a highly contagious disease that can cause deafness, intellectual disability, respiratory failure, and death.
At Every Child Pediatrics, we stand with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control and urge all parents to keep their children safe from preventable illnesses by keeping them up to date on immunizations.
See Dr. Luzietti’s interview on Channel 7 about efforts to increase vaccination rates.