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Chicago child vaccination rates rebound after 2020-21 school year

Last year, Chicago public schools saw an increase in the number of students in kindergarten through third grade who received routine childhood vaccinations to fight diseases such as polio and measles, data shows. of the district.

The increase came after routine immunization rates among the district’s youngest students fell below 70% the previous school year, which began with remote learning as the coronavirus pandemic grew. During the 2020-2021 school year, buildings were closed when students were required to turn in their vaccination forms.

chalk beat reported in late 2020 that families with young children enrolled in publicly funded child care centers were either reluctant to send their children to the doctor for fear of contracting COVID-19, or lost access to the pediatricians they visited before the pandemic.

Illinois law states that children must be current on their immunizations before entering kindergarten, sixth grade, and ninth grade, unless they have religious exemptions. Districts require parents to submit vaccination forms by Oct. 15 as part of the registration process. Children can be excluded from schools if they do not provide proof of immunization. The students are obliged to be vaccinated against diseases such as whooping cough (whooping cough), tetanus, poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox.

If children are not vaccinated against these diseases, the city could see an outbreak of measles or a resurgence of whooping cough.

Routine childhood immunization rates recovered last year when students resumed in-person learning. About 82%, or 73,000 Chicago students in kindergarten through third grade, reported being up to date on routine childhood vaccines.

Chalkbeat Chicago obtained the data through a freedom of information request. This data is as recent as September 27; the district typically completes this data by October 15 each year — when parents must submit records of required vaccinations and school physical exams.

In the 2020-2021 school year, 92,702 students were enrolled in kindergarten through third grade in Chicago, out of a total of nearly 340,000 enrolled in the district. In the 2021-22 school year, total enrollment fell to 330,000 and the number of K-3 students in the district fell to approximately 89,000.

Chicago was once the third-largest school district in the nation, but was recently surpassed by public schools in Miami-Dade County.

A CPS spokesperson said the district is promoting vaccination against other vaccine-preventable diseases as part of its strategy to protect staff and students. The district said it “provides access to vaccines through CPS School Health Centers operated independently by 13 licensed medical organizations.”

The city’s public health department has also expressed concern about the decline in routine childhood immunizations. In a statement, the health department said, “Vaccines can prevent many harmful and deadly diseases in infants, children, adolescents and people of all ages, and getting vaccinated is one of the best ways safest and most effective ways to protect your health and that of your child.”

Parents are encouraged to contact their school nurses to ask where to get vaccinated. City department hopes parents will connect with pediatrician; if they don’t have one, parents can use vfc.illinois.gov/search to find a vaccinator.

The World Health Organization and UNICEF, the United Nations agency that immunizes children around the world, raised concerns over the summer on children missing all or part of their routine childhood vaccinations during the coronavirus pandemic. The two organizations believe pandemic lockdowns, misinformation, climate emergencies, and COVID-19 vaccination efforts diverted resources from pediatric vaccines that fight diseases such as measles, poliomyelitis or meningitis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in April that vaccination rates for state-required vaccines fell 1 percentage point in the 2020-2021 school year from the previous year.

Samantha Smylie is the state education reporter for Chalkbeat Chicago, covering state school districts, legislation, special education, and the state Board of Education. Contact Samantha at [email protected].

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