Drop In Childhood Immunizations Worries Pediatricians

In the decades he has spent as a pediatrician, Dr. Christopher Wilhelm has never had to treat a child with rubella.

“People have become so used to getting injections and getting their vaccines, and that keeps the disease under control of a lot of things that were very traumatic for children,” Wilhelm said.

The disease, which can cause miscarriages and stillbirths, used to be quite common in the US. Now, fewer than 10 people a year get it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s thanks to a decades-long campaign to immunize children across the country against rubella, measles and mumps.

But Wilhelm, a pediatrician at the University of Missouri Health Care, is concerned that these deadly diseases could have a resurgence in Missouri and across the country.

“We would hate anything big, basically a new pandemic with a particular disease on top of the ongoing COVID pandemic,” Wilhelm said.

Many people have delayed or fallen behind routine preventive visits, and for children, that means falling behind the set schedule of vaccinations they should follow. A recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families found that children have missed about 11 million routine vaccinations over the course of the pandemic.

Nicole Cope is the Executive Director of the Missouri Immunization Coalition. Her group is working on a campaign to increase both routine childhood and COVID-19 vaccinations. She says the group is aligning its efforts with underserved parts of the state.

“One Missouri county might have a very different need than another Missouri county,” Cope said.

The coalition has already made public announcements to raise awareness of the delay in childhood vaccinations. The group has also compiled resources for health care providers on topics such as talking to parents about vaccinations. Cope worries that resistance to the COVID-19 vaccine could have a ripple effect that survives the pandemic.

“There is such polarization around the COVID-19 vaccination,” Cope said. “It really has the potential to affect normal childhood vaccinations.”

But Cope’s work to reduce COVID-19 vaccine hesitation through outreach just got a boost: The Missouri Immunization Coalition recently signed a $2.5 million contract with the state to increase vaccination coverage over the next year. improve.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine also recently received full Food and Drug Administration approval for people 16 years and older, and it has emergency use approval for those 12 years and older.

While different states use different age ranges when reporting vaccination demographics, according to national data, the youngest people are the least vaccinated. In Missouri, less than a third of children between the ages of 12 and 17 are fully vaccinated. In Indiana, for example, children between the ages of 12 and 15 make up only 3 percent of fully vaccinated individuals, a slightly smaller proportion than in Iowa, where they make up 3.5 percent.

dr. Lisa Costello is a pediatrician at West Virginia University and the chair of her state’s division of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“We, as pediatricians, have encouraged parents to contact their pediatrician to see if their child was falling behind,” she said.

For Costello, pediatricians are playing catch-up to stop outbreaks of preventable but potentially deadly diseases like whooping cough before the school year.

“Right now we have to use all the tools we have in our toolbox, and we have to prioritize getting kids back to school, along with their friends and their teachers,” Costello said.

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