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2019 Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in Colorado’s Children

In Midst of Nationwide Outbreaks, Colorado’s Immunization Rates Lag, Cost of Preventable Disease Remains High

Despite a recent nationwide outbreak of measles resulting in the highest number of cases in nearly 30 years and a growing Hepatitis A outbreak in Colorado, Colorado’s vaccination rates continue to lag, according to an independent report released September 9 by Children’s Hospital Colorado (Children’s Colorado) and the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition (CCIC).

The second in a series of reports, the September installment of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in Colorado’s Children provides the latest update on local and national preventable disease outbreaks and highlights immunization data from 2018-19 and its implications for health and safety in Colorado’s schools and childcare facilities. It also examines immunization views reported by Denver religious leaders and underscores the potential economic savings of increased influenza vaccination.

In 2018, only 87% of Colorado kindergartners were fully vaccinated against measles—down from 89% in 2017—and nearly five percent of kindergarteners submitted exemptions for one or more vaccines, leaving the Coloradans, especially the state’s youngest residents, vulnerable to an outbreak. And though cases of influenza resulted in over $367 million in hospital and emergency department charges and more than 42,000 missed workdays in Colorado in 2017-18, only 45% of Coloradans received a flu vaccine.

Key report findings include:

  • Kindergarten measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination coverage remains dangerously low at 87% (down from 89% in 2017-18).
  • Kindergarten exemption rates to school-required vaccines remain one of the highest in the nation at nearly five percent. Among exemptions across all ages, 89% are for personal belief reasons, 7% are for religious reasons, and 3-5% are for medical reasons.
  • In a 2016 survey of 100 Denver religious leaders, 75% of leaders reported not being hesitant toward vaccines, but only 10% had formally spoken about vaccines to their congregants.
  • Charges to treat flu in Colorado in 2017-18 totaled over $367 million, with $264 million in charges to treat the 4,753 people who were hospitalized with flu, and $103 million to treat the 20,550 people who visited an Emergency Department (ED) due to flu.
  • Despite the high burden of influenza, only 45% of Coloradans received a flu vaccine in 2017-18.
    It’s estimated that improving rates of influenza vaccination to just 70% could prevent $22 million in treatment charges and $1.4 million in lost wages and productivity.

Read the full report at childrensimmunization.org.