Alaska in Brief

New report highlights low vaccination rates among children in Alaska 

By: - April 19, 2023 1:00 pm
A doctor gives a 5-month-old boy an injection. (Getty Images)

A doctor gives a 5-month-old boy an injection. During the pandemic, vaccination rates for young children in Alaska saw a decrease compared to pre-Covid rates. (Getty Images)

A new report released by the Alaska Department of Health puts a spotlight on low vaccination rates for young children in the state. The report indicates that in 2022, just over half of Alaska’s children aged 19 to 24 months were up to date with the recommended vaccine series. 

Sarah Aho, who was an author of the report, cites many reasons for the low vaccination rates — namely the broad impacts of Covid-19.

“We do know that there were a number of health care clinics that weren’t available. I think, in addition, we know that misinformation and some vaccine hesitancy or vaccine confidence were challenged throughout this pandemic,” Aho said.

During the pandemic, vaccination rates for young children in Alaska saw a decrease compared to pre-Covid rates. While vaccination rates for children did see a slight increase between 2021 and 2022, from 51% to 55%, rates are still considerably lower than the rest of the United States, which had an estimated 70% vaccination rate among young children in 2021. 

The recommended vaccine series for young children consists of seven vaccines that protect against diseases like polio and tetanus, among others. Experts say that it’s critical for children to get these vaccines early on in their life. 

“We used to see these diseases all the time historically and with vaccines we hardly see these diseases anymore. It’s a way to keep our kids healthy and safe and it’s a really easy way to do it,” Aho said. 

While the low percentage of vaccination rates among children may be concerning, Aho said that she thinks the overall outlook for childhood vaccination rates is positive. 

We’re at a good starting place,” she said. “I think we have really strong community support. I think we have some amazing work being done throughout the state and encouraging people to get back in touch with their routine medical care.”

And she emphasized the importance of that medical care, even if it’s difficult. Aho has a child and acknowledges that getting vaccines can be hard. But she said that it was worth it. 

“It’s a lot easier to get a vaccine than get a hospital admission,” Aho said 

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