ARIZONA NEWS

Falling vaccination rates in Arizona could lead to serious health issues

Jan 2, 2023, 5:00 AM
(Shuttershock Photo)...
(Shuttershock Photo)
(Shuttershock Photo)

PHOENIX – Vaccination rates among schoolchildren in Arizona have steadily declined since 2012, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the drop across the state.

The trend is unlikely to reverse any time soon, which could result in serious health consequences for Arizonans in the future, experts fear.

Since 2020, routine preventative health care visits and vaccinations for kids have fallen 30% to 50% in Arizona, said Dr. Sean Elliott, who specializes in pediatric infectious diseases and is an emeritus professor of pediatrics at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. The drop occurred because doctor’s offices were shut down by pandemic precautions.

“There were no in-person health visits,” Elliott said. “Children were not coming to the pediatricians office for their routine care and vaccinations.”

But even as pandemic restrictions have been lifted, he said, parents still aren’t bringing their children to the doctor.

Arizona’s vaccination rates also have been depressed by misinformation campaigns about vaccines and a distrust in governments overseeing public health, which Elliott said deepened during and after the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, there continues to be the anti-vax movement,” he said. “Pre-pandemic, the rates of vaccines, the rates of uptake of science and the trust in health care professionals was already being attacked and was suffering.”

“The biggest concern, both at an individual level and at a societal level, is that growing up kids will be increasingly at risk for what used to be preventable pediatric illnesses – like measles and mumps,” Elliott said. “And the time to protect them with vaccines is in the first couple years of life. It takes their immature, brand-new immune system and gives it the exposure it needs to create lifelong protection.”

Although children can be vaccinated later, the risk for the most serious infections occurs within the first few years. Elliott also said immunocompromised children will be put at risk because Arizona has dropped below the herd immunity threshold of 95% vaccination rate.

“When we drop below a certain percentage of a community that is vaccinated, then those infections can gain a toehold and can create cases,” he said.

Arizona has seen recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles and mumps, according to the state Department of Health Services. Elliott said health care providers and governments can take steps to stem the wave of anti-vaccination.

“The most important thing is to get kids and families back into their primary care provider’s office,” he said. “It is, thankfully, still true that most Americans trust their health care providers if they have an opportunity to listen to them and ask them questions.”

2016 study by the National Library of Medicine also found that “education is a key player” in getting children vaccinated. Some parents choose not to vaccinate their kids because of misplaced fears about the ingredients and side-effects of vaccines, the study said.

Another solution Elliott proposed is to limit religious and personal exemptions – which have ticked up since pandemic restrictions were loosened. Currently, the Arizona Department of Health Services says parents can opt to not vaccinate their children if they submit a signed ADHS Personal Beliefs Exemption Form testifying that immunizations are against their personal beliefs.

Even with government intervention, Elliott and the National Library of Medicine said, the most challenging and most important thing is to regain the trust of the American people.

“Healthy relationships between a practitioner and parent can go a long way toward helping patients” vaccinate their children, the National Library of Medicine study said. “Trust is paramount and will help put parents at ease and help them overcome unmerited fears.”

“No one is trying to hoodwink or hide information,” Elliott said. “If I am asked a question by a concerned vaccine hesitant parent, I am going to give them an honest answer but they have to ask the question.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

Denver Court throws out Wyoming doctor’s pill convictions

A federal appeals court on Friday threw out the convictions of a doctor accused of overprescribing powerful pain medication and ordered a new trial for him.
19 hours ago
(Photo illustration by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

$700M Powerball prize latest in string of giant jackpots

There is another giant lottery jackpot up for grabs Saturday night, the latest in a string of big prizes enticing players to plunk down $2.
19 hours ago
(Pixabay Photo)...
KTAR.com

Missing Arizona girl rescued from basement of sex offender in Utah

A missing Arizona girl was rescued from the basement of a Utah sex offender earlier this week, authorities said Friday.
19 hours ago
Diego Garcia (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Photo)...
KTAR.com

Phoenix man accused of killing girlfriend’s 18-month-old child

A Phoenix man was arrested Thursday for allegedly causing the death of his girlfriend's young child, authorities said.
19 hours ago
(Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)...
KTAR.com

Arizona municipal league opposes bills to ban local grocery, rent taxes

The director of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns said state lawmakers are taking the wrong route trying to pull the plug on food and rent taxes.
19 hours ago
(KTAR News Photo)...
Danny Shapiro

Arizona AG Mayes warns that she will prosecute individuals who threaten election workers

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes issued a warning Friday to anyone considering threatening election workers in the state.
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Falling vaccination rates in Arizona could lead to serious health issues