Tales of COVID-19 vaccination hesitancy have overshadowed another inoculation urgency: With school about to start, too few kids in Washington are up-to-date with routine shots.
State law rightly requires that parents and guardians submit complete immunization records for students on or before the first day of school. But state health officials have recorded recent troubling drops in vaccination rates, especially among preteens. Parents should act quickly to ensure students are fully vaccinated before fall semester starts.
Kindergartners should be immunized against hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox before they set foot in a classroom, unless parents have secured a permissible exemption under the law. But recent statistics show that in 2019-2020, just 63% of the state’s 4- to 6-year-olds had received two or more doses of the MMR vaccine, as required for kindergarten enrollment. In King and Snohomish counties, fewer than 69% were vaccinated against these potentially life-threatening illnesses. That’s slightly lower than the previous year’s vaccination rates. The state goal is for 90% of children to receive vaccinations on time.
Meanwhile, more than half the state’s 11- and 12-year-olds were not fully vaccinated against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough, even though it’s a requirement for entering seventh grade. That’s an 11% decrease in Tdap vaccinations from the previous year, state officials say.
These are not arbitrary requirements — vaccine rules are intended to protect students and their classmates from serious and preventable illness. Other vaccinations are recommended, but not required, including COVID-19 vaccinations for children 12 and older.
School administrators are required by law to exclude students from classrooms who are out of compliance with required immunizations. It shouldn’t come to that. Parents and guardians have a duty to ensure children are fully vaccinated before the first day of school.