Children entering kindergarten in Louisiana were more up to date on four key vaccinations than children in the rest of the country, the latest immunization data show. However, many Louisiana adults and children remain more vulnerable to infectious diseases than the rest of the country, a reminder there remains much work to do to inform, empower and protect Louisiana residents.

According to 2020-2021 school-year data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 96.9% of Louisiana’s incoming kindergarteners with an immunization record on file were protected against three serious childhood illnesses: diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. Nationwide, the rate was 93.6%. The same trend was true for protection against hepatitis B; mumps, measles and rubella (MMR); and polio.

National Immunization Awareness Month

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, which focuses attention on the benefits of immunization on population health.

Dr. Courtney N. Phillips, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, says preventing infectious diseases is one key area of improvement for the health of Louisiana residents.

“We’re focused on ensuring everyone has accurate information and convenient access to vaccinations,” Dr. Phillips said. “Louisiana’s school entry requirements are a great tool that help us increase vaccination rates and reduce the spread of illness. Schools in Louisiana have played an important role by ensuring children are up to date on their immunizations before they attend classes.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, misinformation, disinformation and controversy dissuaded many people from vaccination. As a result, some people have grown skeptical of routine vaccines that have, for decades, proven safe and effective.

“Vaccines are the safest and best way to protect yourself and your family from many infectious diseases,” said State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter. “Dating back to the initial smallpox vaccine, countless lives have been saved through vaccination. Many in our community are fortunate to have not known personally the suffering caused by widespread infectious disease outbreaks of years past, now eradicated or rendered manageable by vaccines. We must all continue to make available evidence-based protection from vaccine-preventable illness to all who stand to benefit.

Vaccination rates in Louisiana vs. nationwide

For some age groups, vaccination rates in Louisiana are lower than comparable national rates. For example, only 1.3% of Louisiana children 5 and under have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. This is three times fewer than children nationwide. Meanwhile, 90% of adults nationwide have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 73.6% in Louisiana, which ranks 47th in the country.

The recent approval of the newest COVID-19 vaccine, Novavax, is an option for anyone concerned about receiving more modern, mRNA technology-based vaccines. Novavax is a protein-based vaccine developed using the same science as the flu vaccine. It is now available to anyone 18 years and older.