Report: R.I. teen immunization rates drop, remain among highest in nation

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island’s immunization rates for teenagers remain among the highest in the nation, the R.I. Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday, though vaccination frequency was lower than last year.

The data were gathered through a version of the CDC’s National Immunization Survey focusing on children from 13 to 17 years old. Surveyors made randomized telephone calls to parents and guardians. The information they provided was confirmed with the child’s vaccination provider.

The study showed 88.5 percent of Rhode Island girls and 88.7 percent of Rhode Island boys received at least one dose of Human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccine, the second-highest rates in the country, higher than the national averages for the first dose of HPV vaccine at 68.6 percent for girls and 62.6 percent for boys.  The District of Columbia ranked highest at 91.9 percent.

The Rhode Island rate was slightly lower than last year, when Rhode Island marked as the highest in the U.S. at 90.1 percent of Rhode Island girls, and 87.8 percent of Rhode Island boys receiving at least one dose of the vaccine girding immune systems against the HPV virus, a very common infection that can lead to cancer in males and females.

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Rhode Island’s teen immunization rate for tetanus, diptheria and acellular pertussis, a combined vaccine called Tdap, was 94.6 percent, the fifth-highest rate in the nation, behind Connecticut at 94.9 percent, New Hampshire at 95.1 percent, Indiana at 95.1 percent, and Massachusetts at 96.2 percent. Last year, Rhode Island ranked No. 2 in the nation at 95.4 percent.

Teens in the Ocean State ranked No. 3 in the United States for having received at least one dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine, at 94.1 percent. The top two highest immunization rates for meningococcal conjugate vaccine were Georgia at 95.3 percent, and Connecticut at 94.9 percent. Last year, Rhode Island state ranked No. 1 at 96.4 percent.

A separate survey by the CDC indicated that Rhode Island had the highest overall flu vaccination rate in the nation during the 2016-2017 flu season at 55.4 percent, according to the R.I. Department of Health. The second highest was South Dakota at 53.9 percent.

“Immunization prevents disease,” said Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. “Timely immunization is important for people of all ages – from infancy to adulthood – and helps build safe, healthy, and strong communities. Rhode Island’s consistently high vaccination rates means that we are preventing the serious health consequences and significant healthcare costs associated with many illnesses and are helping give everyone in our state the opportunity to be as healthy as possible, regardless of their ZIP code.”

Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer. Email him at