MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Vaccines are safe and effective in protecting children against a variety of potentially dangerous infectious diseases. The Alabama Chapter-American Academy of Pediatrics (AL-AAP) and the Alabama Department of Public Health encourage parents to keep their children and teens healthy by ensuring they receive vaccines according to the recommended schedule. Vaccines are important as they help children’s immune systems fight infections.
While most parents are confident in the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, the spread of misinformation has put some communities at risk for outbreaks because children are unvaccinated.
According to the Jan. 12 “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” a steady 1% decline in vaccinations for kindergarteners has been reported nationwide for the past two school years, from 95% in 2019-2020 to 93% in 2021-2022. This means at least 250,000 kindergarteners are potentially not protected against measles.
There are many reasons for the decline. The report found there are disparities in vaccination levels among children living in low income and rural areas where lack of transportation and other barriers present challenges. The percentage of uninsured children not vaccinated by their second birthday was eight times that of privately insured children.
Nola Jean Ernest, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP, a pediatrician in Enterprise and AL-AAP president, said, ““Routine childhood vaccination is one of the crowning achievements in pediatrics over the past century, with studies showing that more than 100 million cases of diphtheria, hepatitis A, measles, mumps, pertussis, polio and rubella have been prevented since 1924. As pediatricians, our primary focus is on preventing illness and keeping children well from birth to adolescence. And immunizing children is at the heart of this work we do every day. We continue to encourage parents to seek preventive care so that their children can lead healthy lives.”
Higher immunization rates help everyone become healthier. To remove vaccine costs as a barrier, the federal Vaccines for Children program covers the cost of all recommended vaccines for eligible children.
To find what vaccines are recommended during pregnancy and according to the age of your child from birth to age 18, visit the vaccine schedules at cdc.gov/vaccines/parents.
Other important resources are also available at alabamapublichealth.gov/immunization/resources.html.
Wes Stubblefield, M.D., (256) 340-2113, ADPH
Linda P. Lee, APR, (334) 954-2543, AL-AAP