Washington teen immunization rates continue to slowly improve

Julia Velonjara, MPH
Child/Adolescent Health Educator
Office of Immunization and Child Profile
Prevention and Community Health Division
Washington State Department of Health

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released the 2017 National Immunization Survey (NIS) Teen data, including Washington’s immunization rates. Our rates have been slowly and steadily increasing over the past ten years. State officials would like to highlight an exciting statistically significant improvement since the 2016 NIS: One dose of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for males 13-17 years increased from 58.9% to 71.2%. There is no longer a statistically significant gap between female and male rates.

Thank you! The gains reflect the hard work that healthcare providers and others have put in for several years to increase the number of teens who get the HPV vaccine, which protects against certain types of cancer.

While we’re encouraged by the progress of the Department of Health and its partners, one dose (71.9%) and up-to-date (55.2%) HPV immunization rates lag behind Tdap (88.6%) and meningococcal (82.6%) vaccine coverage. The national Healthy People 2020 goal is to have immunization rates for all three vaccines surpass 80%. Since all of these vaccines should be given at the same time, this means we are missing a lot of opportunities to protect Washington kids from many cancers. The department encourages all healthcare providers to recommend Tdap, HPV, meningococcal, and flu vaccines to their preteen and teen patients.

The department is also concerned that Washington’s teen MMR rate (91.5%) is below the community immunity level needed to prevent the spread of measles (95%). Checking a patient’s immunization records at every visit will help you catch them up on any missed childhood vaccines, like MMR and varicella.

You can review both national and statewide NIS-Teen results at the CDC’s TeenVaxView. The article about the nationwide data is in the August 24 MMWR. If you have questions about Washington’s data, contact:

Julia Velonjara
Child/Adolescent Immunization Health Educator
Washington State Department of Health