County-wide student vaccination rate tops national average but remains below previous years | Pittsburgh City Paper

County-wide student vaccination rate tops national average but remains below previous years

School-aged children in Allegheny County are vaccinated in higher numbers than the national average for the country, but health officials warn they have dropped since during the last few years.

The county health department reports that 95.3% of school-aged kids in Allegheny County were up to date on all required vaccinations during the 2021-22 school year, while only 94% of children were vaccinated nationwide.

But officials at Allegheny County Health Department warn last year’s student vaccination levels are still down more than one percent from their 2015-2016 peak of 96.7%, leaving “approximately 2,500 students unprotected against dangerous diseases.”

“Allegheny County has seen a small downward trend in its school-aged vaccination rate over the past seven years, which we are actively monitoring,” remarks ACHD Medical Epidemiologist Dr. Kristen Mertz.

Mertz also credits school nurses and pediatric health care providers for maintaining the county’s above-average student vaccination rates.

According to a health department release, all Pennsylvania students enrolled in kindergarten through twelfth grade are required to receive the appropriate doses of the following vaccines: tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap), hepatitis B, measles-mumps-rubella, polio, and chicken pox. The state also requires a Tdap booster and the meningococcal vaccine for students enrolled in seventh grade and an additional dose of meningococcal for twelfth graders. Twelfth graders had the lowest vaccination rate last year

Health department officials are calling on parents to seek out additional vaccines beyond what the state requires.

“If they have not already done so, parents should consider vaccinating their children against diseases beyond what is required by Pennsylvania,” says ACHD Clinical Services Deputy Director Dr. Barbara Nightingale. “Doing so will allow your kids to live happier, healthier lives. Plus, it will give parents and guardians the peace of mind that they will not be stricken with a preventable disease.”

Beyond the required vaccines, ACHD says its immunization practices advisory committee recommends that school-aged children also receive vaccinations for rotavirus, Haemophilus influenza type B, pneumococcal disease, influenza, hepatitis A and papillomavirus.

“Before the widespread availability of vaccines, these diseases had significant impact on the health of children and communities, some resulting in death of children. The fact that these diseases no longer impact our daily lives is due to vaccines,” explains ACHD Director Dr. Deb Bogen. “Unfortunately, due to a decrease in vaccination rates across the county, we are seeing preventable diseases, such as polio, reemerge. We must not allow these diseases back into our lives when we have the tools to prevent them.”

ACHD advises parents to contact their health care provider or schedule an appointment with the ACHD’s Immunization Clinic to get their children vaccinated for the coming school year.

Allegheny County Health Department Immunization Clinic. 425 First Ave., Fourth Floor, Downtown. Call 412-578-8062 for an appointment, walk-ins welcome.

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