Low vaccination rates leave small schools in Ariz. vulnerable to measles

In Arizona, kindergarten students in smaller schools are at higher risk for contracting vaccine preventable diseases like the measles, according to The Arizona Republic.

While the Arizona Department of Health Services makes vaccination rates for schools with kindergarten classes consisting of more than 20 students publicly available, the department does not release the same rates for schools with 20 or fewer students enrolled in kindergarten, citing protection of student privacy. The Republic obtained records for these schools by seeking vaccination rates and enrollment data without school names.

The Republic's analysis revealed a majority of small schools in the state reported less than 95 percent of kindergartners had received the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. This places these schools below the rate required to develop herd immunity. Dozens of other small schools reported MMR vaccination rates below 75 percent for kindergartners, making these students particularly vulnerable to measles outbreaks.

Maricopa County (Ariz.) Department of Health Director Bob England, MD, said he was surprised by The Republic's findings.

"I'm sure going to ask for [small-school data] from now on so we can keep track of it," said Dr. England. "We've always tolerated the fact that this isn't available to parents in really small school settings...so maybe that's part of the problem."

This summer, a Maricopa County resident became infected with the measles during an outbreak related to a detention center in Pinal County. The outbreak infected 22 people and exposed thousands. The spread of measles was linked to low vaccination rates among employees of the detention center.

More articles on infection control:
Bloodstream infections fiscally burdensome for pediatric ambulatory patients 
Michigan health officials call on colleges to improve immunization efforts 
Genetic data on antibiotic-resistant Salmonella released

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