Data: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios
The sharp decline in routine childhood immunizations following stay-at-home orders last spring reversed considerably by the fall. But it “was not sufficient to achieve catch-up coverage,” a new report out from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday shows.
Why it matters: Children behind on their shots for preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough could pose a “serious public health threat” to themselves and others, especially if mask mandates are no longer in place by the return for in-person schooling this fall.
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In recent years, some states were already struggling to reach acceptable immunization rates for mandatory vaccines, such as those for measles, mumps, and rubella.
As an example of the consequence, officials say, a measles outbreak occurred in Rockland County, N.Y., and surrounding counties in the 2018-2019 school year. Measles vaccination coverage in those schools was only 77%, far below the 93%–95% coverage needed to sustain herd immunity, the report cites.
What’s happening: Routine vaccines for various age groups for diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis; MMR and the human papillomavirus were analyzed in several states across the U.S.
All immunizations were drastically down from March to May 2020, compared to 2018 and 2019 levels. They remained down several percentage points from June through September.
Zoom in: MMR shots decreased between 22% and 63%. Though an improvement, shots in June through September were still down approximately by 9%-11%.
Routine HPV vaccinations were down between 64%-71% in the spring. The U.S. was administering 12%-28% less shots between June and September than years prior.
Of note: The CDC changed its guidance last month to allow COVID shots to be given at the same time as others, so providers should consider scheduling all at once if a child is eligible as to not overburden the health care system, the agency says.
The bottom line: “Even a transient decline in vaccination coverage can compromise herd immunity and result in the propagation of outbreaks,” per the report.
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