The fall season is officially underway, which means that families across the country should have already gotten their flu shot. Traditionally, the flu shot is administered from September through mid-November each year. Since the shot only becomes effective about two weeks after the shot, it's always best to get the vaccine as early as possible. Still, thousands of children go without the flu shot every year and the exact number, including how many kids skip vital vaccinations each year in the United States is pretty shocking.
According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about an average of 59 percent of children get the flu shot every year. Which means that a little under half of children in the United States are at risk of getting the flu in school or on the playground this year. The rates of children who get the flu shot are the highest for smaller children, according to the CDC, but the numbers drop significantly as kids grow up. Only 49 percent of teens, for example, get the flu shot, even though the CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months old get a flu shot every single year.
However, those percentages are averages for the entire country. The percentage of kids who get the flu shot, much like vital vaccinations, varies greatly state by state, depending on the kinds of exemptions parents can get before enrolling their children in school, along with other factors, according to the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
According to the most recent CDC data from 2015, 95 percent of children in kindergarten, for example, have had the two doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, but that number, too, isn't evenly spread throughout the country. Of all the states, 26 of them didn't meet the federal 95 percent target for MMR vaccination coverage, according to the CDC. Some states — such as West Virginia, Ohio, and Utah — reported just over 80 percent of children were vaccinated against MMR.
When it comes to other vaccines, such as rotavirus, the numbers are even lower. The CDC reports that only about 63 to 78 percent of children get the rotavirus vaccine per year nationwide, despite the fact that the gastrointestinal virus kills about 500,000 children worldwide annually.
There are different ways that parents can opt out of vaccinating their children, with one being a medical exemption, which would come into play if the child has an illness that makes it difficult to vaccinate. But, these exemptions are very rare, according to the CDC.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, religious exemptions from vaccines are allowed in 48 states and the District of Columbia, and 20 states allow philosophical exemptions. This means that a parent can get paperwork drawn up so that they don't have to give their children the recommended vaccinations to enroll in school or child care.
Judging by the various state laws and the low vaccination rates in some states, there are still far too many people who have been misled by debunked pseudoscience that teaches that vaccines are dangerous.
That's just not true — children who get their vaccinations are less likely to get sick or spread communicable diseases, whereas there is no evidence that vaccinations cause illness or other conditions, according to the CDC and other health agencies in the United States.
Not only does vaccinating children keep them and other kids safe (especially babies under 6 months old who can't be vaccinated), it's also cheaper in the long run. It's never fun to talk about things being cost effective when it comes to health matters, but studies have shown that when children are vaccinated the government and families spend less money on health care. According to the NCSL, in 2012, for example, 414 Colorado kids under the age of 4 years old were hospitalized with vaccine-preventable diseases, resulting in just over $26 million in related costs, including missed work for parents.
Likewise, kids who get the flu shot are less likely to not just spread the flu, but also end up at the doctor's office for symptoms or end up hospitalized if the flu gets severe. Last year, 105 kids died from the flu and around 6,000 were hospitalized for symptoms, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports.
All of that pain, suffering, and money could be saved with just a quick, and oftentimes, low cost shot. It really does seem like a no-brainer.
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