Knox County and East Tennessee have the lowest rates for children being vaccinated in all of Tennessee. With the now five cases of measles in East Tennessee, it’s beginning to become an issue that so many children are unvaccinated.
Children are much more at risk of contracting measles than adults are, so the amount of unvaccinated children is raising red flags across East Tennessee and Knox County.
Back in 2017, there was a report of 95.2% of children in kindergarten being vaccinated. Both public and private schools track this information each year to stay up to date with the amount of children that have been vaccinated.
In 2017, Knox County had a vaccination rate of 95.6% in public and private schools, higher than the state wide average. A few schools did fall below that mark though, including the Sunnyview, Mt. Olive, Bonny Kate and Sarah Moore Greene elementary schools.
Lack of access or anti vaccination movement?
Though there is an amount of children with parents who are apart of the anti vaccination movement, it’s actually been reported that less children have been vaccinated because of the lack of access.
Knox County Health Department spokesperson, Katharine Killen, said that the lack of access to vaccinations is a more common and frequent barrier than parents not wanting their kids to be vaccinated. She also said that the health department consistently works to ensure that anyone who wishes to get vaccinated receives what they want.
“It’s our understanding that the majority of people who do not vaccinate their children do so because it’s an access issue or a time issue,” Killen said. “It’s not because they’re adamantly opposed to vaccination. That’s a much smaller population than what social media or the internet would have you believe.”
In fact, certificates that indicate students are in the process of getting vaccinated are much more common than religious or medical exemptions. Out of all elementary schools in Knox County, only 1.7%, which is 77 kindergarten students, claimed that they hadn’t been vaccinated for religious reasons.
The public’s view
While the anti vaccination movement isn’t responsible in full for the amount of unvaccinated children, many parents still oppose the idea of vaccination.
“It’s just a bunch of people trying to force something on people that they shouldn’t,” said Danielle Kaller, a mother whose two year old son hasn’t been vaccinated, “Saying that their children are not protected against an unvaccinated child is like saying the mother is hiding the disease in a cave somewhere waiting to unleash it on the world.”
While there hasn’t been a major decrease in the amount of children vaccinated, approximately a 9.4% decrease, it has major effects. Since measles spreads so fast, one child that contracts the disease can easily effect a large group of other children who haven’t been vaccinated.
The Tennessee Department of Health has been urging anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated yet to receive the vaccination for measles as soon as possible.