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Tennessee Kindergarten Vaccination Rates Hit A Record Low; Fentress Lowest

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Tennessee Kindergarten Vaccination Rates Hit A Record Low; Fentress Lowest

Kindergarten vaccination rates in Tennessee have hit an all-time low.

Compliance in the state stands at 93.3 percent according to a report from the State Health Department. Upper Cumberland Medical Society President Dr. Brent Staton said the record-low number is concerning.

“If we don’t get our children vaccinated appropriately then there’s a risk that we’re going to have outbreaks of diseases that we haven’t seen in decades,” Staton said.

This is the second year in a row that vaccination rates in the state have dropped. State officials believe immunity for the community comes with 95 percent immunization. Two years ago, 72 Tennessee counties met that threshold. In the latest report, just 43 counties reached 95 percent. Staton said he believes the decline in immunizations is connected to the COVID vaccine.

“I think there is a fear, kind of a hesitancy, an unknown, on whether or not the child will have to have the COVID vaccine, which is not the case,” Staton said.

Immunization prevents diseases that have largely been wiped out in the United States, like polio and measles. Staton said there’s not always an understanding of the long-term impacts of these diseases.

“Measles can cause a lot of damage to children,” Staton said. “It can cause learning disabilities. It can cause blindness, deafness, death, encephalopathy. So it can cause a lot more problems than people remember because it’s been so long since we’ve seen outbreaks.”

Staton said it is important that parents understand all the issues involved with a vaccination decision. He suggested talking to your family physician as a way to separate facts from the fiction that can manifest on social media and the internet.

“Often, I think what we need to do is we need to sit back, we need to say, ‘okay, let’s slow down, let’s think about this and go have a talk with your physician, whether it be family medicine or pediatrician, and go talk to them about why you don’t feel comfortable vaccinating your children,” Staton said. “They’ll talk to you. They’re not going to make fun of you. They’re not going to look down on you. They’re not going to have negative connotations to you. But it is a conversation that you need to have with your doctor before making a final decision on this very important topic.”

Fentress County had the lowest number of vaccine compliance of kindergarteners in the state at 82 percent. Clay County had the highest rate in the region at 98 percent.

Staton said he wants to stress the importance of getting vaccinated and assures the community they are safe.

“Parents have had these vaccines,” Staton said. “I’ve had these vaccines. My son and granddaughter have had these vaccines. The vaccines are safe. There is a lot of misinformation that can be found out there.”


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