Pandemic leads to troubling drop in vaccination rates

One troubling side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic: Falling vaccination rates.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that as of May 2020, only about half of kids under five months old are on schedule for all their vaccinations. (That number is normally about two-thirds.) Overall, vaccination rates for older kids have also decreased by about 21 percent.

Dr. Steven Stack, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, urged Kentuckians last month to continue seeking medical care when necessary – including getting kids vaccinated. Diseases like chicken pox and measles can have serious effects and even be fatal.

Some people may have missed doctor’s appointments when the stay-at-home order was in place. And some may be continuing to put off appointments out of concern that they could be exposed to COVID-19 in waiting rooms or other areas of the doctor’s office.

Doctor’s offices are used to containing communicable diseases and many have instituted extensive safeguards – including closing waiting rooms and even holding drive-by appointments for vaccinations.

“With lower-than-normal vaccination coverage among all age groups, children may be at higher risk for vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, whooping cough, chicken pox, and more,” said Bill Jones, Plan President and CEO of WellCare of Kentucky, the state’s largest Medicaid provider. “Even during these uncertain times, it’s important we continue to encourage everyone to protect themselves, including getting immunizations to protect children from preventable health complications.”

The schedule for immunizations is carefully considered and it’s important to stay on schedule – or to work with your doctor to get back on schedule if you’re behind.

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