- Associated Press - Sunday, October 26, 2014

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A new report says the on-time immunization rate for Kansas children dropped sharply during the last school year after several years of improvement.

The report compiled for the annual Kansas Kids Count report said only 61 percent of Kansas children who were kindergartners during the 2012-13 school year received recommended immunizations by age 2. That was down after improving from 63 percent to 72 percent since 2009, The Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/12i56NJ ).

“When you look at the trend over time, there is potentially cause for concern,” said Shannon Cotsoradis, president of Kansas Action for Children, which collects and analyzes data for the annual Kansas Kids Count report. “Kansas has made a lot of progress on immunizations, and you hope that this is perhaps a one-year anomaly. But I think there’s reason to believe that there might be some backsliding on this issue.”

Most Kansas students get the required shots before starting school but more parents seem to be delaying immunizations or not following the recommended schedule, Cotsoradis said. And other parents are choosing not to have their children get the shots.

“We’re seeing the trickle-down of what’s going on at the national level,” Cotsoradis said. “There’s a parent fear about the consequences of immunizing and perhaps not an equal amount of attention to the consequences of not immunizing.”

Kansas schools allow exemptions from vaccine requirements only for medical or religious reasons. Kathy Hubka, coordinator of health services for the Wichita school district, said school nurses see cases where parents cite a religious exemption for philosophical or political reasons.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said about 1 percent of Kansas kindergartners did not get required shots for the 2010-11 school year, with nearly three-fourths of those citing religious exemptions.

Current exemptions are difficult to count because district and statewide data is being collected in a different way, Hubka said.

“I believe that yeah, we probably are seeing more” families opting out of required vaccines, she said. “I don’t think it’s a lot more, but that trend is definitely happening.”

The number and sequence of shots also worries some parents, Hubka said. By the time most children are 6, they will have received about two dozen shots, with many of them given in infancy.

“Some parents are getting concerned that maybe their kids are getting too many medications or too many vaccines in one shot,” Hubka said. “It’s not that they won’t be fully immunized by the time they start school, they’re just not getting everything by what we would call ‘on schedule’ or as recommended.”

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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