Routine childhood vaccinations plummeted during the early days of the pandemic, CDC report finds

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Childhood vaccinations were a victim of the spring 2020 lockdowns, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Vaccination rates for children under two fell by about 20 percent between March and May 2020, while vaccination rates for older children fell by more than 60 percent.

The percentage of DTaP shots – including diphtheria and tetanus – decreased by 38 percent overall compared to 2018-2019, while the percentage of MMR shots – measles, mumps and rubella – decreased by 43 percent.

Although vaccination rates rose in the summer of 2020 after lockdown orders were lifted, the increase was not enough to catch up with the children who missed their chance earlier in the year.

This lack of catch-up vaccinations “could pose a serious public health threat” as disease outbreaks could threaten school reopening and other recovery efforts after COVID, the CDC researchers say.

Childhood vaccinations fell during spring 2020 home orders, the CDCC found

Childhood vaccinations fell during spring 2020 home orders, the CDCC found

MMR vaccination rates - including measles, mumps and rubella vaccines - fell in spring 2020 and didn't increase enough to make up for the difference over the summer

MMR vaccination rates – including measles, mumps and rubella vaccines – fell in spring 2020 and didn’t increase enough to make up for the difference over the summer

Thanks to vaccinations in children, the UD has made great strides in reducing outbreaks of infectious diseases in recent decades.

‘Before the measles vaccine was approved in 1963, the virus was’ at least two million Americans infected a year,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, wrote in 2019.

This virus caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of hospitalizations every year.

The COVID pandemic threatened progress against measles and other diseases, the new report confirms.

While the lockdowns in the spring of 2020 reduced the number of COVID cases and prevented the health care system from becoming overwhelmed, they impacted other aspects of American public health.

People suffered from mental health problems, opioid overdoses increased and birth rates fell – among other negative consequences.

In some states, human papillomavirus (or HPV) vaccinations fell by more than 80 percent

In some states, human papillomavirus (or HPV) vaccinations fell by more than 80 percent

Childhood vaccinations have been another casualty of the lockdowns.

The CDC analyzed vaccine administration data from ten U.S. jurisdictions with detailed reports available from March to September 2020.

These jurisdictions include Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York City, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin.

All ten jurisdictions had significantly lower vaccination rates from March to May 2020 — when most states had stay-at-home orders.

Of the nine states included in the study, only Iowa and North Dakota did not issue home orders.

The CDC looked at four categories of childhood vaccinations.

For DTaP vaccines — including diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis — vaccination rates fell by 16 percent for children under two years of age and by 60 percent for children aged two to six.

That’s an average drop of 38 percent compared to the same months in 2018 and 2019.

For MMR vaccines (measles, mumps and rubella), vaccination rates fell by 22 percent for children aged 12 to 23 months and by 63 percent for children aged two to eight, with an average decrease of 43 percent overall.

Vaccination rates fell more for those vaccines given to older children, such as HPV

Vaccination rates fell more for those vaccines given to older children, such as HPV

Vaccination rates fell even further for those childhood vaccines administered to older children.

The delivery rate for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine fell by 67 percent for children ages nine to 17.

And the rate for the TdaP vaccines — tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis — fell 64 percent for children in the same age group.

After the stay-at-home orders were lifted in the summer, vaccination rates for children rose.

Rates for most vaccines approached – or even surpassed – pre-pandemic figures between June and September 2020.

But the increases were not high or sustained enough to catch up with the children who missed their vaccinations in the spring.

Many states saw further COVID outbreaks over the summer, and many parents still feared they would become infected in the doctor’s office or on the way to an appointment.

In addition, thousands of school districts remained in remote or hybrid education in the 2020-2021 school year — meaning they may not have imposed immunization requirements.

Still, the continuing vaccine backlog among children is a cause for concern among public health experts.

The CDC researchers describe these vaccinations as a “critical front-line tool” against infectious disease outbreaks and that even a temporary decline can compromise herd immunity.

They refer to an infamous measles outbreak that hit Rockland County, New York in 2018 and 2019.

Vaccination rates for affected schools were 77 percent — a high number compared to COVID vaccination rates, but well below the 93 percent required for herd immunity against measles.

If children are not vaccinated soon, schools could face similar outbreaks in the coming school year – the researchers call this a “serious threat to public health.”

Outbreaks of measles and other diseases could derail reopening efforts, resulting in further school closures for children whose communities are finally recovering from COVID.

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