Boy and vaccine syringe

Colorado kindergartners are number one – but not in a good way. We have the lowest kindergarten vaccination rate for measles in the country. Although only one Coloradan has had a confirmed case of the illness since an outbreak started at Disneyland, in California, the low vaccination rate here is a big concern.

Colorado is one of 20 states that allows parents to claim any kind of personal opposition to immunization programs, resulting in a high exemption rate. Among the 49 states and the District of Columbia reporting vaccination coverage for measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, for the 2013-14 school year, Colorado stood dead last, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data wasn’t available for Wyoming.

National median vaccination coverage was almost 95 percent for two doses of MMR vaccine during the past school year, according to CDC estimates based on school records. In Colorado, less than 82 percent of kindergartners are fully vaccinated.

When the vaccinated population falls below 95 percent, it loses herd immunity — enough vaccine coverage so that it’s unlikely a susceptible person will come into contact with an infectious person. The 95 percent who are fully immune act like a firewall in the spread of the highly contagious disease.

The fight over vaccinations is intensifying as measles makes a big comeback, according to federal public health officials. In the first month of this year, 102 people from 14 states were reported to have measles, including one reported case in El Paso County.

Most of these cases were part of a large, ongoing outbreak linked to Disneyland, according to the CDC. But this year’s outbreak follows a record number of reported cases in 2014, with 644 cases in 27 states. According to the CDC, that was the greatest number of cases since the elimination of measles from the United States.

The CDC recommends that all children get two doses of MMR vaccine, with the first at 12-15 months of age and the second at 4-6 years. A second dose can be received sooner, as long as it is at least 28 days after the first dose.

One dose of measles vaccine is about 93 percent effective at preventing measles if one is exposed to the virus. Two doses increase effectiveness to about 97 percent, according to the state Department of Public Health and Environment.

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