Tooele County leads the state for vaccination among junior high-age youth and has exceeded the Center for Disease Control’s goal for herd immunity, according to data from the current school year.
About 94 percent of all county children starting kindergarten in the 2013-14 school year were fully vaccinated upon entering school.
Among incoming 7th graders, 96 percent had received all the vaccines recommended for their age group, according to information from Amy Bate, a health educator with the Tooele County Health Department.
This was the first year that the county has tracked data on herd immunity, Bate said, so comparable data from past years is unavailable.
Statewide, about 98.3 percent of incoming kindergarteners and 94.7 percent of 7th graders were fully vaccinated.
High vaccination rates contribute to herd immunity. When herd immunity is achieved, sensitive individuals who cannot receive the vaccine are protected from the spread of communicable disease within the vaccinated population because contagions are less able to move from person to person. The CDC has set the recommended threshold for herd immunity at 92 percent.
Because the county’s vaccination rates are so high, local children are at a significantly lower risk of contracting diseases such as pertussis, Bate said. In recent years these diseases have begun to spread among school children once again, with outbreaks forcing school closures in several Utah counties.
“The health of our children is important in so many ways,” said Myron Bateman, executive director for the Tooele County Health Department, in a news release. “Better health in childhood makes it easier for kids to learn, increases the likelihood they’ll live a long healthy adult life, and improves the overall health of our community.”
Linda Abel, immunization program director from the Utah Department of Health, attributed the county’s success with vaccinations to the Tooele County Health Department’s relationship with the Tooele County School District. That also includes school nursing services that make in-school vaccination available to residents.