Montana’s polio vaccination rate slightly below average

Public health officials remain positive that New York case will not become a trend

By: - July 27, 2022 6:35 pm

Children receiving the Wellcome polio vaccine by placing a drop on a sugar cube, circa 1980. (Photo courtesy of Wellcome Library, London | International CC-BY 4.0)

First it was COVID-19. Then monkeypox. And now, for the first time since 2013, polio has re-emerged in the United States.

While health officials are mixed on whether this could trigger a third simultaneous epidemic, some areas have begun checking on vaccines and protocols.

Montana requires all public education students to be vaccinated against a host of diseases, unless there’s a medical or religious exemption. Those diseases range from measles, mumps and whooping cough to polio, an ancient disease that can cause paralysis or death.

A look at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics show that Montana is about average for its population protected from polio, with nearly 93 percent of children entering kindergarten being vaccinated. That’s just 1 percent less than the national average of 93.9 percent.

Most public health officials believe herd immunity for polio hovers somewhere around 80 percent. Herd immunity is a medical concept that says a high enough concentration of vaccinations or antibodies against a transmissible disease will disrupt how disease spreads, thereby greatly reducing the chance that even those who are unvaccinated can become sick.

Polio is spread by contact with water droplets containing the disease or by contact with fecal matter. And the recent case in Rockland County, New York, was traced to an unvaccinated person who came into contact with someone who was given a polio vaccine.

Montana’s overall vaccination rate for children entering kindergarten is slightly below the national averages in all categories:

  • Diphtheria, Tetanus, Whooping Cough: Montana 91.9% | Nation 93.6%
  • Measles, Mumps, Rubella: Montana 92.9% | Nation 93.9%
  • Varicella (Chickenpox): Montana 91.1% | Nation 93.6%

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Darrell Ehrlick
Darrell Ehrlick

Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan, after leading his native state’s largest paper, The Billings Gazette. He is an award-winning journalist, author, historian and teacher, whose career has taken him to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, and Wyoming. With Darrell at the helm, the Gazette staff took Montana’s top newspaper award six times in seven years. Darrell's books include writing the historical chapters of “Billings Memories” Volumes I-III, and “It Happened in Minnesota.” He has taught journalism at Winona State University and Montana State University-Billings, and has served on the student publications board of the University of Wyoming.