Pediatricians urge U.S. parents to get their children vaccinated after vaccinations for diseases such as measles declined last year as the pandemic imposed restrictions, including home accommodation arrangements.
New data from 10 jurisdictions that closely monitor vaccinations confirms that the number of vaccine doses administered fell between March and May last year, particularly among older children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.
Although vaccinations recovered between June 2020 and September 2020 and were approaching pre-pandemic levels, the increase was insufficient to offset the earlier decline, the study found.
Vaccinations are required to attend most schools, camps and daycare, but the CDC study authors warned that the delay could nonetheless pose “a serious public health threat that could lead to vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks.”
They expressed concern that the move to distance learning during the pandemic may have hampered enforcement of vaccination regulations, noting that even a temporary drop in vaccination can affect herd immunity.
A measles outbreak occurred in Rockland County, NY and surrounding counties in 2018-2019 after the measles vaccination rate in schools in the area dropped to 77 percent, below the 93 to 95 percent required to maintain herd immunity . “Pediatric outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases can undo efforts to reopen schools this fall,” the researchers added.
Parents should plan ahead now and make appointments so their children can be protected, said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, Chair of the Infectious Diseases Committee at the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“We should start thinking about it,” said Dr. Maldonado in a telephone interview. “People forget. We have whooping cough outbreaks regularly every four or five years and are just waiting to see another. “
“We’ll likely see more infections because the kids will get back together and there will be less masking and social distancing,” she added.
The CDC analyzed data from nine states and New York City. In eight of the jurisdictions, a stay at home order was issued last spring.
The number of doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccines (DTaP) administered decreased by 15.7 percent in children under 2 years of age and 60 percent in children between the ages of 2 and 6, compared with last spring the same period in 2018 and 2019.
The vaccine doses against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) fell by 22.4 percent in 1-year-olds and by 63 percent in 2 to 8-year-olds.
HPV vaccine administration decreased more than 63 percent in adolescents aged 9-17 years compared to the same period in 2018 and 2019; and doses of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough) decreased by over 60 percent.