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Less vaccinated children are more Minn. Schools vulnerable



The number of Minnesota schools with low primary school immunization rates for measles and chickenpox has increased dramatically over the past five years, raising concerns among public health officials about their susceptibility to outbreaks of high-risk disease.

One-third of Minnesota schools had a nursery census rate that was below the level required for "herd immunity" according to a Star Tribune analysis of 1,110 primary schools.

Some of these schools have had chickenpox outbreaks since 2017, including one with two separate outbreaks, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Unvaccinated children continued to have a measles outbreak in 201

7, which made 75 ill and sent 21 to the hospital. Nationwide, there have been nearly 400 cases in which measles with low vaccinations have been revived across the country, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year.

"We are concerned about these children," said Dr Sheldon Berkowitz, president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Minnesota, chapter. "It's important to vaccinate not just for your own child, but for other children in the community who can not get vaccinated."

Falling vaccination rates have worried physicians, public health practitioners and researchers alike about reminding the public that vaccines pose a low risk and promote public health. They cite extensive medical research, including a recent study that found that there is no association between measles vaccine and autism, one of the myths that has cut vaccination rates and created fertile ground for the recent outbreak of Minnesota measles ,

"I think what drives them is the fear and the internet and the idea that there is no science behind the recommendations we make," Berkowitz said. "They are indeed based on very sound scientific information."

Minnesota public health officials express concern about the trend. Note, however, that vaccination rates for the entire kindergarten across the country are high – 93 percent for measles and 92 percent for measles chickenpox.

"When you vaccinate your children, you are the norm," said Kris Ehresmann, Director of Infectious Diseases at the Health Department. "The people who do not vaccinate are a small outlier, but an outlier who has grown, that's why we worry about it."

In 787 schools with nursery schools, the measles vaccine coverage was 90% or more The 2017-2018 school year has the most recent data available. Together they take on four-fifths of the state kindergarten teachers.

But this figure obscures the pockets of lower rates at which illnesses can easily spread.

The trend is partly driven by the growing number of parents who do not choose to vaccinate children as permitted under state law, but could also include children with incomplete doses or whose parents have not submitted the required documentation to schools ,

However, schools are falling more and more below the 90 percent limit of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination coverage. Last year, it was 30 percent of all kindergartens, an increase of 22 percent five years ago. During this period, vaccination rates at 150 schools fell by more than 5 percentage points and fell below 90%.

In chickenpox, 33% of schools are below the 90% immunity threshold, which is the lower limit needed to prevent outbreaks.

Schools report vaccination rates only for kindergartners and seven-year-olds. The vaccination rates improve in the higher grade, where only half as many schools are below the 90% threshold for MMR and chickenpox.

Many of the bags are in small charter and private schools, where a handful of unvaccinated children are housed in a small group. Kindergarten population can drive the vaccination rate below the recommended limit.

Yet, a full fifth of state-run kindergarten teachers are enrolled in these pocketbooks, and although most of these children have the recommended two doses of the MMR vaccine they are also at risk because the vaccine does not provide complete protection.

"We Are Alerting"

In addition to the risk of an outbreak, students without shots may endanger other children who may not be vaccinated for medical reasons. Many of these children have weakened the immune system caused by a chronic illness or medical treatment. A shot like the MMR, which contains a live but weakened form of the virus, could actually make it sick. And if they got someone else's disease, they would most likely develop severe symptoms.

"We keep thinking about it," said Linsey Rippy, who has two daughters who had heart transplants. They use medications that prevent their bodies from rejecting their heart, but these drugs also use their ability to fight disease.

"The people around my children need to be vaccinated, so we know that we give them as much safety net as possible," said Rippy.

At the beginning of each school year, Rippy writes a letter to her children's teachers asking them to tell all parents how important vaccinations are. "It's not me to know if her kids are vaccinated," she said. "But at least I hope they understand a little more about what we've gone through and why we feel the way we do it."

With the recent reports of measles outbreaks that point to a growing reluctance to vaccine parents across the country, Rippy fears that schools will lose the immunity of the herd that helps protect their children.

"That puts us in high alert," she said.

Minnesota is one of 17 states where parents can refuse vaccination for personal reasons. All states provide exceptions for medical reasons, while others stipulate that exceptions must be based on religious principles.

Kelly Johnson, whose 12-year-old daughter attended a public school and was never vaccinated, is one of the vaccine skeptics.

"I just fill in the conscientious objector form," Johnson said. "That's a right that parents have in Minnesota."

Johnson began questioning vaccines after her older daughter had seizures at a young age. She believes the MMR vaccine was responsible for this, but she also attributes other medical issues, including chronic ear infections, to vaccines her daughter received at the age of 2 months.

The seizures never stopped, and today she is 20 years old daughter sitting in a wheelchair.

Johnson also has a 21-year-old son who was vaccinated and had health problems, including asthma and severe allergies.

"I have this little, tiny study in my own household it's fascinating how much healthier my unvaccinated child is," she said. "I feel as parents we have our right to do what we need to do for the health of our own children."

One school, two outbreaks

The rising number of schools with inadequate chickenpox vaccination coincided with an increase in outbreaks of the disease.

The Maranatha Christian Academy at Brooklyn Park was one of four schools that had chickenpox outbreaks in 2017. With 84 percent of the kindergarten teachers and the seventh age group who had acquired immunity Through illness, the school experienced seven cases of the disease.

By 2019, Maranatha's immunity for kindergarten children had risen to 92 percent and to sevenths at 90 percent, but the school saw another outbreak, this time in nine cases. [19659008] "I do not want to see these diseases in schools," Headmaster Brian Sullivan said in an interview.

Increasingly, according to Sullivan, vaccinations have become a polarizing matter among parents. "It's a challenging situation. The law allows parents to retire, "he said. "We can not take their authority."

Sullivan said he has heard concerns from other parents who have decided to vaccinate.

The school's primary task is to collect records of shots or exceptions from parents and inform the school community about health issues, such as outbreaks.

"We are limited by the legal framework," he said.

Last year, the Eagle Ridge Academy, a charter school in Minnetonka, had a record of MMR vaccinations for only 66 percent of the 136 trained kindergarten children.

"We have a high Somali population and it is believed that this community has a negative impact, particularly the MMR," said Executive Director Jason Ulbrich. "It's just wrong."

In order to improve the reporting rate, the school held parent meetings before the current school year to explain the importance of vaccines. Since then, interest rates have improved by 10 to 15 percent.

"We try to enlighten them and get the information into their hands," said Ulbrich.

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