HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Childhood vaccination rates have declined nationally and in the Commonwealth from pre-COVID levels, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
“Rubella and measles are particularly contagious, so the fewer people who get vaccinated, the more likely we’ll see these types of viruses spread,” said Kaitlyn Hoffman, a certified nurse practitioner at UPMC.
The decline in vaccination rates has health officials concerned as more people choose not to vaccinate their children.
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“The overall vaccination rate across the country is down about 1%, which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s actually pretty big,” Hoffman said.
Pennsylvania is no exception. Vaccination rates for preventable diseases like polio and measles have declined over the past two years, statewide data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health shows.
“Rubella, and measles in particular, is highly contagious, so the fewer people who get vaccinated, the more likely we’ll see these types of viruses spread,” Hoffman said.
What was once a fear has now become a reality.
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“Measles itself has been increasing significantly, with about 49 cases in 2021, and then we had 118 cases last year,” Hoffman added.
Even polio, considered eradicated in 1979, had cases in New York last fall.
“It’s also concerning that some people cannot legally be vaccinated for medical reasons, so those who cannot be vaccinated are at higher risk because they rely on the rest of us to protect them,” Hoffman said.
Health experts say the decline in vaccination rates may be linked to misinformation.
“We’ve also reduced routine office visits and places where we usually talk about vaccines, talk about education and get kids vaccinated,” Hoffman said.
The most important aspect of all this is to urge parents to learn.
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“It’s really not just keeping you safe, it’s keeping your family and your community safe,” Hoffman concluded.