Denver parents can quickly check immunization rates for their local schools using a comprehensive database compiled by Chalkbeat Colorado, an online news organization covering education issues.
The following article by Chalkbeat reporter Ann Schimke has been edited by permission to appear in the Front Porch.
Starting this fall, parents who opt their children out of shots for personal or religious reasons will have to work a little harder than they have in years past.
That’s because of new state rules that advocates hope will push up Colorado’s immunization rates, which are among the lowest in the country.
The new rules also lay the groundwork for a more comprehensive state-run immunization database expected to go live next spring. That database, available to the public, will include immunization and exemption rates for not just Colorado schools but also licensed child care providers.
Public health advocates say giving parents access to immunization data helps them gauge the risk of communicable disease outbreaks and make informed choices about where to send their children for school or child care.
Among the findings from Chalkbeat’s immunization database:
Nine of 18 northeast Denver elementary and middle schools had immunization rates of 90 percent or better. (Immunization rates of 90-95 percent within a group help protect that group from disease, especially people who can’t be vaccinated because they are too young or have a medical condition.)
Relatively few northeast Denver parents exempt their kids from shots—exemption rates at 17 of the 18 schools range from 1-5 percent.
In Denver overall, about 56 percent of more than 200 schools have immunization rates of 90 percent or better, and only six schools have exemption rates higher than 10 percent.
In neighboring Aurora, nearly two-thirds of more than 50 schools have immunization rates of 90 percent or better, and only one has an exemption rate higher than 10 percent.
Compliance rates—an indicator of how hard schools are working to make sure they have students’ immunization or exemption paperwork—improved at about 45 percent of Colorado schools in Chalkbeat’s database in 2015-16.
Stricter requirements for opting out
The new immunization rules, which took effect in July, will require parents who excuse their children from shots for personal or religious reasons to do so more often.
Parents of K-12 children will be required to submit the exemption forms annually and parents of younger children will need to submit the forms up to five times prior to kindergarten. (There will be no change to the process for claiming a medical exemption from shots.)
Previously, parents often had to submit the forms only once during their child’s educational career.
Public health experts say the more stringent requirements will help reduce exemptions claimed out of convenience rather than conviction and help push down Colorado’s higher-than-average exemption rates. Parents opposed to the change have argued that they think carefully about their vaccine decisions and shouldn’t have to jump extra bureaucratic hurdles.
While some school health leaders say they like the idea of sharing school immunization rates with the public, it can be a lot of extra work for school nurses and no additional funding came with the data collection requirement.
(unless parent signs exemption)
- Hepatitis B
- Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
- Haemophilus Influenza Type B (HIB)
- Pneumococcal disease
- Varicella (Chickenpox)
Read the entire article by Ann Schimke at www.Chalkbeat.org/co > Search “wide gulfs in vaccination rates
Access Chalkbeat’s immunization database at www.Chalkbeat.org/co > Search “2015-16 immunization rates