Infectious Disease

US data show ‘concerning decline’ in routine pediatric vaccinations

April 21, 2022

2 min read

Source/Disclosures

sources:

PressConference.

Disclosures:
Peacock and Stokely report no relevant financial disclosures.

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Data published Thursday in MMWR raised concerns about a decline in routine pediatric vaccinations during the pandemic.

According to the report, during the 2020-2021 school year, national vaccination coverage among kindergarten children dropped from 95% to lower than 94%.

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“This might not sound like much, but it amounts to at least 35,000 more children across the United States that entered kindergarten without documentation of complete vaccination against common diseases like measles, whooping cough and chickenpox,” Georgina Peacock, MD, MPH, acting director of the CDC’s Immunization Services Division, said in a call with the press.

“In addition, enrollment in kindergarten dropped by 10%, which means around 400,000 fewer children entered kindergarten than expected, and those children also might not be up to date on their routine vaccinations,” Peacock said. “This is further evidence of how the pandemic-related disruptions to education and health care could have lingering consequences for children.”

According to the report, national coverage among kindergarteners for two doses of a vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella fell to 93.9% — below the target of 95% that is widely recommended for measles elimination. Rates of coverage for the state-required number of doses of DTaP (93.6%) and varicella (93.6%) vaccine were even lower.

National vaccination coverage decreased by about one percentage point for each of those vaccines compared with the previous school year.

“In addition, kindergarteners with an exemption to at least one vaccine remained low at about 2.2% and an additional 3.9% were not up to date on their MMR vaccination and did not have an exemption,” Shannon Stokley, DrPH, deputy division director of the Immunization Services Division, said during the call. “Overall, today’s findings support previous data showing a concerning decline in childhood immunizations that began in March 2020.”

Stokely said “in-person learning, implementing vaccination policies and following up with undervaccinated students is critical to maintaining the high coverage needed to protect children against vaccine-preventable diseases.”

“We can recover ground lost during the pandemic,” Peacock said. “We know parents, schools and health care providers are all under increased stress caused by this pandemic. As a parent myself as well as a pediatrician, I understand the ongoing challenges that so many are facing. However, with most schools back to in-person learning, extra effort is needed to catch up children who missed vaccines, and to maintain high levels of routine childhood vaccinations and equitable coverage to help protect children, their families, and their communities against vaccine- preventable diseases.”

References:

Since then R, et al. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2022;doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7116a1.

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