Vaccination is the administration of a vaccine to help the immune system develop protection from disease. Vaccines contain a weakened microorganism or virus or proteins or toxins from an organism, not strong enough to infect someone but help build a tolerance to the disease.
Unlike in some countries around the world, vaccines are easily accessible in the United States. The seasonal influenza vaccine, or flu shot, is often offered for little to no cost at clinics across the United States every year during flu season. Many of these wide-available vaccines are for some of the most aggressive contagions that can be particularly harmful to children, the elderly, and people with autoimmune disease. Vaccines not only protect the individual receiving the vaccine but also the community preventing the spread of these diseases.
Around the world, more and more people are receiving life-saving vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a thorough list of vaccines used in the United States. An emphasis is placed on children between the ages of zero to 10 to receive a specific list of vaccines: hepatitis A (HepA); hepatitis B (HepB); diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP); Hib, PCV13; inactivated poliovirus (IPV); inactivated influenza (IIV) or live-attenuated influenza (LAIV); measles, mumps, rubella (MMR); and varicella (VAR).
While there are no federal laws regarding the requirement of vaccinations, all 50 states have legislation requiring children attending public schools to be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP); polio (IPV); measles and rubella (MMR); and varicella (chickenpox). However, all states and the District of Columbia allow medical exemptions for children who have a medical condition preventing them from receiving a vaccine.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, routine immunizations for children are vital for both individual and society health. Because immunization rates vary from state to state, some communities have recently experienced outbreaks of preventable diseases due to a lack of vaccinations. Low vaccination rates can be affected by medical exemptions, parents’ choice (anti-vaccination movement), or by lack of health care or health insurance.
Vaccine Rates by State
Wallethub compared all 50 states and the District of Columbia across three dimensions:
- Children & Teenagers Immunization Rates
- Adult & Elderly Vaccination Rates
- Immunization Uptake Disparities & Influencing Factors
The dimensions were evaluated using 18 metrics, including share of children 19-35 months with combined 7-vaccine series, child flu vaccination rate for ages six months to 17 years, adult flu vaccination rate, the share of adults with tetanus vaccination, and share of Americans likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine when available. Each state and D.C. was graded on a 100-point scare, with 100 representing the most favorable conditions.
Based on this, Massachusetts has the best vaccination conditions of any state. Massachusetts has the highest flu vaccination rate in the U.S. for children six months to 17 years old, at 81.8%. In August 2020, state public health officials announced that all K-12 students must get a flu vaccination, in addition to existing immunization requirements, by December 2020 as part of a plan to lower the impact of the flu during the COVID-19 pandemic. Massachusetts also has the second-highest flu vaccination coverage among adults.
Mississippi ranks 51st across each dimension, making it the worst state for vaccinations. Mississippi has the lowest share of teens 13-17 years old with up-to-date HPV vaccines and the MenACWY vaccine and the share of adults with the tetanus vaccine and the Zoster vaccine. Additionally, Mississippi has the second-lowest flu vaccination rate for children six months to 17 years. For the 2019-2020 flu season, only 51.9% of Mississippi children got a flu vaccine.
The table below contains each state's rankings for each dimension and its total score and overall rank.