By Conor McCue
DENVER (KCNC) — As the COVID-19 vaccine remains on the top of everyone’s mind, pediatricians are urging parents to make sure their children are caught up on routine vaccinations. A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found rates for routine vaccinations plummeted last spring during stay-at-home orders. Months later they rebounded, but not to pre-pandemic levels.
The report, which focused on data from 10 states, warned the lag in catching up “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 COVID-19 pandemic has taken the limelight, but we have to remember that there are other infections that children can be susceptible to, and when you have lower vaccination populations, then that group is going to be at risk,” said Dr. Suchitra Rao, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
Dr. Rao says she’s seen a similar trend at her facility and around the state. A study published last December found between January and March 2020, vaccination rates in Colorado dropped as much as 31% for individuals aged 0 to 2 years and 78% for those 3 to 9-years-old.
“All of these vaccines are considered to be really important, and we tend to want to give them during the age which they’re going to give you the greatest benefit, but also in a time when we know they’ve been well studied and the immune response is really good in this age group ,” Rao said.
The CDC report said possible causes for the decline in routine vaccination rates could include people’s fears of contracting COVID-19 in a health care facility, as well as a rapid transition to virtual learning that could have hampered enforcement of immunization requirements.
Rao and staff are now directly reaching out parents about getting their kids caught up. It’s one way to combat any lingering apprehension.
“I think it will be a slow, gradual return. Hopefully, we’ll get there,” Rao said.
For Margaret Emmerich, that reminder wasn’t necessary to get her two sons all caught up on their shots recently.
“I have a lot of trust in the system, and we do our own research and I found that staying on the schedule is the best thing for our family,” Emmerich said.
With many teens eligible for the COVID vaccine, Dr. Rao said she suggests getting the routine shots in the same visit. The American Academy of Pediatrics has said it’s safe to get them at the same time.
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