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With declining childhood vaccine rates, Idaho experts remind families how effective they are

Data shows declining childhood vaccination rates for things like measles, pertussis, and pneumococcal infections.

BOISE, Idaho — Over the last two years, there has been a lot of discussion about vaccines, specifically the vaccines for the coronavirus.

With so much attention on vaccines, makes you wonder how vaccines rates look for non-COVID topics.

Did immunization efforts suffer because of the heightened political atmosphere?

There is still attention on COVID-19 and its vaccines/boosters, which remains important, but there is renewed attention now on vaccines that are common for children.

South Central Public Health District in Twin Falls reports that early data shows: general vaccine rates among children have declined over the last two years. Health officials say that is an issue because it places Idaho children and teens at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases.

Things like measles, mumps, and pertussis, also known as whooping cough, and pneumococcal infections. Epidemiologists are doubling down on vaccine effectiveness as they encourage families to get their kids vaccinated against preventable illness.

Tanis Maxwell, South Central health district epidemiology program manager, has this thought:

“Vaccines prevent disease. We do see that in our vaccine rates prior to COVID, that we've seen a decline of diseases over the years. So, they prevent disease and it also helps prevent disease exposure for individuals who can't be vaccinated yet those little babies or young children,” Maxwell said.

Another thing for families to consider, travel.

For the first time in two years, families are finally able to go on big trips outside of the country. Something taken for granted sometimes, is the low levels of preventable disease in our country due to traditional use of vaccines. So, if you and your family are going abroad this spring or summer, epidemiologists have this advice:

“There's more potential to be exposed to those diseases, especially if you travel. And we are coming on to the summer months where individuals may travel so it's important to protect yourself against those, where you may travel to areas where the diseases may be more prominent and potentially exposed,” Maxwell said.

There has been a lot said about vaccines and vaccine technology over the last two years. If you put COVID aside for just a moment, experts remind you that vaccines for things like mumps, and measles are highly effective and helped push those diseases out of our communities.

The science and impact remain true, vaccines save lives.

“It's very important to protect yourself. Getting the knowledge and education about vaccines will protect you and your family. And we don't want to see a resurgent of diseases that have been prevented by vaccines,” Maxwell said.

It's okay to have questions too, there are honestly few true experts on the topic. If you and your family have questions about childhood immunizations, talk to your doctor about your concerns. Experts say having a conversation about issues you may see with a vaccine is the best way to solve your questions. 

If you were wondering, 55% of Idahoans aged 5 and older are considered fully vaccinated. The nationwide number for that age group, 5 and older, is about 70%.

As a reminder, Idaho health experts recommend getting a COVID vaccine and boosters to prevent COVID from spreading. Idaho COVID Numbers look good in recent weeks, back on Friday the state only reported 29 cases.

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