South Dakota kindergarten immunization rates among highest in nation

South Dakota boasts some of the highest immunization rates in the nation for kindergarten students, according to recently released data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC surveyed immunization records for 12,468 South Dakota kindergarten students for the 2012-2013 school year and found:

  • 97.9 percent were fully immunized  for MMR (measles, mumps, rubella);
  • 97.7 percent were fully immunized for DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis);
  • 96 percent were fully immunized  for varicella (chickenpox); and
  • just 0.3 percent had a medical exemption for vaccination and another 1.5 percent claimed a religious exemption.

“South Dakota parents and vaccine providers do a great job of getting kids the shots they need for school entry,” said Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the Department of Health. “These high vaccination rates prevent disease from spreading and protect people with medical conditions that keep them from getting vaccinated.”

Now is a good time for parents to check with their health care provider to see if their kids are up to date on shots before the school year starts. Parents can also request copies of immunization records from the department through its Web site,

While the kindergarten coverage rates are excellent, rates for other age groups are not as high.

“By time the children get to middle school, high school and college the rates fall because parents aren’t always aware that these kids need vaccinations such as meningococcal vaccine and boosters for others such as pertussis. Rates for preschoolers are also not as high as they should be,” said Kightlinger. “Lagging vaccination rates open the door to disease.”

Improving childhood immunization rates is a key objective of the department’s Health 2020 initiative.

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