Immunizations for standard childhood vaccine series increased in state

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A new analysis from the New York State Health Foundation found that early childhood vaccination coverage for diseases including measles, mumps, and chickenpox increased in New York State between 2018 and 2020. Vaccination rates improved in most counties and across all racial and ethnic groups, although disparities persist according to race, ethnicity, and geography, the study, released on Wednesday, reports.  

The analysis is based on data from the New York State Immunization Information System for the 57 counties outside of New York City. It assesses the percentage of children who completed a 7-vaccine series before the age of 24 months.

“This increase in childhood vaccination rates is a bright spot in this fraught back-to-school season in New York,” said David Sandman, Ph.D., president and CEO of NYSHealth. “Vaccines are the best way to prevent the spread of dangerous infectious diseases like the measles outbreaks we’ve seen in recent years. And as we know from our current experience with COVID-19, it’s critical that a large share of the population gets vaccinated to ensure that everyone is better protected against disease.” 

Among the report’s findings:

Overall early childhood vaccination coverage increased across state from 2018 to 2020.

In 2020, 64.5% of children ages 24–35 months had completed the entire early childhood vaccine series by age 24 months; 59.4% of similarly aged children completed the early childhood vaccine series by age 24 months in 2018. 

Early childhood vaccination rates have increased for children of all races and ethnicities. Rates improved the most for Asian children during the study period.

There was substantial variation in early childhood vaccination coverage across counties in New York State, with more than half of counties having rates below the State’s Prevention Agenda goal of 70.5%. The 2020 coverage rate in the county with the lowest rate, Rockland, was approximately half as high as the county with the highest rate, Livingston (42% compared with 82%). Regionally, Lewis County had the highest rate of youngsters completing the vaccine series at 81.7%, followed by Madison County, 72.6%; Oneida County, 67.6%; and Herkimer County, 65.4%; and

The lowest regional rates of early childhood vaccination coverage were consistently found in the Lower Hudson and Long Island regions (in 2020, 54% and 59%, respectively).

“We’re on the right trajectory overall, but more needs to be done to continue and sustain the increase in New York’s childhood vaccination rates, particularly for New Yorkers of color and in the areas where take-up remains low,” said Mark Zezza, Ph.D., NYSHealth’s Director of Policy & Research.

Additional steps to protect all children from vaccine-preventable diseases could include training health care providers to communicate with vaccine-hesitant parents; leveraging the State’s immunization registry to identify children who have fallen behind on immunizations during the COVID-19 pandemic; and implementing standing orders to allow a wider range of health care professionals (including pharmacists) to administer early childhood vaccines.

The full report, “Getting a Fair Shot: Progress and Disparities in Early Childhood Vaccination in New York State,” is available online at https://nyshealthfoundation.org/resource/getting-a-fair-shot-progress-and-disparities-in-early-childhood-vaccination-in-new-york-state/.

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