With parents avoiding their children’s doctor visits amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, early childhood immunization rates have precipitously dropped, sparking new healthcare concerns.
Healthcare professionals are reporting that since the COVID-19 pandemic began, pediatric immunizations are dropping for illnesses such as measles, mumps, and whooping cough.
PCC, a pediatric electronic health records company, gathered vaccine information from 1,000 independent pediatricians nationwide, which showed that immunizations are down nearly 75 percent for some illnesses.
Using the week starting on Sunday, Feb. 16 as a pre-pandemic baseline, PCC found that during the week of Sunday, April 5, the administration of measles, mumps, and rubella shots dropped by 50 percent; diphtheria and whooping cough shots by 42 percent; and HPV vaccines by 73 percent.
According to the CDC, the decline began the week after the national emergency declaration. Data show a subsequent decline in vaccine administrations beginning the week of Monday, March 16.
“Vaccination coverage declined in all milestone age cohorts, except for birth-dose hepatitis B coverage, which is typically administered in the hospital setting,” the CDC posted in a report on Tuesday, March 24.
“The CDC emphasizes the importance of routine well-child care and immunization, particularly for children aged under 24 months old when many childhood vaccines are recommended.”
Health officials said that with the drop in pediatric vaccinations, communities face increased risks for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. They also noted that it might lead to a rush in “catch-up vaccinations.”
“Parental concerns about potentially exposing their children to COVID-19 during well-child visits might contribute to the declines observed,” the CDC noted in the study. “To the extent that this is the case, reminding parents of the vital need to protect their children against serious vaccine-preventable diseases, even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, is critical.
“As social distancing requirements are relaxed, children who are not protected by vaccines will be more vulnerable to diseases such as measles,” it continued. “In response, continued coordinated efforts between health care providers and public health officials at the local, state, and federal levels will be necessary to achieve rapid catch-up vaccination.”
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