Will schools maintain immunization requirements as vaccination rates plunge?

[E]ven as the coronavirus dominates concerns of parents and school leaders, the dwindling rates of routine childhood vaccinations are quietly becoming another dangerous threat to children’s health.

Falling vaccination rates in D.C. were of great concern for Hanseul Kang, the D.C. state superintendent of education, who spoke with me before D.C. had announced a reopening plan. “We are concerned about the need to prevent other significant vaccine-preventable diseases,” she said, “According to D.C. Health, the rate of pediatric immunization administrations has dropped by 70 percent in the District.”

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Most schools won’t let kids enter without up-to-date vaccinations, thus ensuring high enough vaccination rates to meet the threshold for herd immunity. Schools also help identify under-vaccinated students and even provide vaccinations to those who need them. Every year, schools function as essential backstops to ensure against the spread of infectious diseases.

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But this year, as more and more districts start the year remotely, there is a growing number of students for whom schools won’t play their traditional role backstopping immunizations. Laudably, D.C. Public Schools just announced it would maintain immunization requirements even as it has closed buildings to 47,000 students, but it is unclear how those stipulations will be enforced… Many other districts are going remote without mentioning immunization requirements at all.

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