Danger lurks for children who miss vaccinations

Written by on January 11, 2021

Danger lurks for children who miss vaccinations

By Chloe Nouvelle

December 11, 2020

Photo| Chloe Nouvelle

The U.S. is racing to vaccinate people quickly against COVID-19. But public health officials are concerned that immunizations for other highly contagious diseases have dropped in children.

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Up to 9 million doses of childhood vaccines were missed last year, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield, one of the nation’s largest health insurance providers.

This includes vaccinations like the MMR shot which prevents measles, mumps, and rubella. 

“As people start to relax their social distancing and come back together in groups, there’s a greater chance that a disease like measles in particular, which is very contagious, can really spread through the community pretty rapidly,” says Dr. Katie Lockwood, a physician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia “Immunization rates are likely decreased because people aren’t coming in for the preventative visits.” 

Blue Cross Blue Shield also found children missed polio vaccinations. And immunizations against diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough were down 26%. 

According to the report, to reach herd immunity for measles, the vaccination rate needs to be 93%. But the insurer estimates it was closer to 88%. Lockwood says that’s concerning because measles is airborne.

“If you have a child with measles who goes to school, and a lot of the children there are not immunized, it will very quickly run through the whole classroom. That’s faster and easier than what we see with COVID where the numbers are much lower in kids. With measles, that’s not the case,” Lockwood says. 

The report also warned that these recent missed childhood inoculations could even lead to diseases like polio reemerging. 

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