CDC documents significant drop in routine child, adolescent vaccinations early in pandemic

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) documented a significant drop in routine child and adolescent vaccinations across 10 jurisdictions in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, spurring concerns of potential outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. 

The study released Thursday calculated the median weekly percent decrease in vaccinations between March and May 2020, compared to the same period before the pandemic in 2018 and 2019. 

Vaccinations did pick up between June and September 2020, once most state stay-at-home orders ended, but not at a high enough rate to make up for the dropoff in the earlier months of the pandemic. 

The results prompted the researchers to call on health care providers to examine the vaccination status of all pediatric patients and get in touch with those who are behind schedule to get their shots. 

“This lag in catch-up vaccination might pose a serious public health threat that would result in vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks, especially in schools that have reopened for in-person learning,” the research said. 

According to the study, HPV vaccinations saw a 63.6 percent median decrease among 9- to 12-year-olds, and a 71.3 percent drop among 13- to 17-year-olds between March and May 2020. The number of tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis vaccines fell 66.4 percent and 61.4 percent, respectively.

The number of measles, mumps and rubella vaccines administered to 2- to 8-year-olds dropped a median 63.1 percent, while 12- to 23-month-olds saw vaccinations fall 22.4 percent. 

For those aged 2 to 6, the number of diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis vaccinations dropped by a median 60.3 percent, and among those younger than 2 years old, the decrease was 15.7 percent. 

Between June and September 2020, routine vaccination numbers approached the 2018 and 2019 levels, but all age groups still saw a median decrease in shots compared to the pre-pandemic years.  

The agency emphasized that more routine vaccinations will be needed as schools reopen for full in-person learning in order to stop vaccine-preventable diseases from spreading among children. 

Only children 12 and older are eligible to get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, although companies are trying to expand authorization to younger populations in the coming months. 

Between March and May last year, eight of the 10 jurisdictions included in the study at one point had stay-at-home orders, including Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York City, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. The two without lockdowns were Iowa and North Dakota. 

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 immunizations Pandemic shots stay-at-home orders Vaccines

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