Back to school immunization numbers declining

Health experts are encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated for the upcoming school year.
Published: Aug. 23, 2023 at 7:10 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) -

Health experts are encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated for the upcoming school year as data indicates that seems to be happening less and less. North Dakota kindergarten vaccination rates are the lowest they’ve been in 5 years, according to the NDSU Center for Immunization Research and Education.

“People just have questions about the safety of vaccines, you know, if they’re really necessary,” says Kris Hayes, the Fargo Cass Public Health Immunizations Coordinator.

Experts agree more and more people have been questioning the safety and efficacy of immunizations since the pandemic. However, the stance of the medical community remains the same.

“Most vaccines are really safe, usually the most typical reactions that someone might have might be just a little bit of a sore arm, a low grade fever,” explains Hayes.

Each state has it’s own regulations regarding vaccines and attending public schools. Most have exemptions for medical reasons or religious beliefs. North Dakota currently has a 3rd exemption for personal beliefs.

Clinical Consultant Lynn Bahta at the Minnesota Department of Health says, “Around, 2-2.5% of Minnesota parents have submitted a personal belief exemption, so that’s a pretty small number.”

But in North Dakota the number of overall exemptions continues to climb. The Immunization Center reports 1.4% of students requested exemptions from vaccines 10 years ago and now, that number is now nearly 5%.

“Trying to keep the child caught up on their class work and the parent having to take time off are all things to consider when you’re thinking that you’d rather not worry about the vaccines. There is a risk to not vaccinating,” says Bahta.

Experts think some parents aren’t necessarily hesitant to get their kids vaccinated, but simply fell behind due to interruptions from COVID.

“We do have a catch up schedule, so we can get them caught up,” says Hayes.

Fargo Cass Public Health is hosting a vaccine clinic today and Thursday, August 24 from 8-4 pm.