In Colorado, Vaccine Preventable Disease Costs Are Up, But Childhood Vaccination Rates Are Down

A partner post by our friends at the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment.

According to a new report released by Children’s Hospital Colorado and Immunize Colorado, the state is experiencing two troubling trends: skyrocketing costs for care for children and adults suffering from vaccine-preventable diseases and plummeting rates of childhood vaccinations.

The new data examines CDC National Immunization Survey data and 2019 Colorado Hospital Association inpatient and emergency department data.

In 2019, before COVID-19 had emerged as a national health emergency, Colorado health care charges for vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, whooping cough and flu had reached $1.1 billion including 14,000 hospitalizations and emergency room visits for children and 20,000 of those same events for adults.

Like health care costs for vaccine-preventable diseases, vaccination rates for Colorado children are also headed in the wrong direction. Colorado has long struggled with low vaccination rates, often ranking near the last in the nation for on-time vaccinations by age two and for school-aged children. The report found that of children born in 2017, only 64 percent were fully vaccinated by age two. In 2020 as the pandemic restrictions were in place, those already low vaccination rates dropped even further.

Compared to the number of doses delivered January to March 15, doses delivered after March 15 to May were 31 percent lower for children 0-2 years, 78 percent lower for 3-9 years, and 82 percent lower for 10-17 years of age. Although vaccination rates have improved since this initial drop, they have not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

“The consequences of this period of under-vaccination may only become clear as pandemic mitigation measures ease up over the next year; low rates could leave children vulnerable to diseases like measles when they head back to in-person learning and when people start traveling more,” said Dr. Jessica Cataldi, the report’s main author, and infectious diseases pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Colorado and a member of AAP Colorado. “That’s why it’s critical for health care providers to create opportunities for vaccination catch-up now and help get kids back on track. We can’t risk additional disease outbreaks.”

You can read the full report here.

If you have questions or need additional information, please contact CDPHE’s immunization branch at 303-692-2700 or cdphe.dcdimmunization@state.co.us