US children and adolescents may be at higher risk for vaccine-preventable diseases this fall as vaccination levels haven’t caught up with prepandemic policy, according to a study published now in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Pediatric outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases have the potential to derail efforts to reopen schools for the 2021-22 academic year and further delay nationwide efforts to return students to the classroom,” compose Bhavini Patel Murthy, MD, together with the Immunization Services Division, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases branch of the CDC, and coworkers.
The number of kids getting regular vaccinations dropped between March and May 2020 in comparison with the same months in 2019. Although vaccination rates rose again from June 2020 during September 2020, the rally wasn’t sufficient to reach prepandemic levels, according to the study.
At the start of the June to September 2020 interval, the news was great, the writers write. After most stay-at-home orders were lifted, the amount of weekly regular pediatric vaccinations began to strategy, and even exceed, baseline prepandemic amounts in most of the 10 jurisdictions analyzed.
“However,” the authors write, “across all age groups and across all vaccine types, none of the jurisdictions demonstrated a sustained or prolonged increase in the number of weekly doses administered above prepandemic administration levels, which would have been necessary to catch up children and adolescents who missed routine vaccinations.”
To overcome the difference, the writers say clinicians must take the initiative. “Healthcare providers should assess the vaccination status of all pediatric patients, including adolescents, and contact those who are behind schedule to ensure that all children are fully vaccinated.”
As COVID-19 vaccinations become more readily available to kids, the CDC recommends that providers consider giving COVID-19 shots along with other routinely recommended vaccines.
Martha Perry, MD, associate professor and medical director at the University of North Carolina Children’s Primary Care Clinic, told Medscape Medical News that getting out the message regarding the need to acquire children and teens caught up may demand a national messaging campaign much like that for COVID-19 vaccinations, in addition to opening mass vaccination sites rather than families seeking vaccinations out of individual suppliers.
She noted that although schools may provide a checks and balances system for required vaccinations, children who are not yet school age depend on households getting individual appointments.
Size of the Gaps
The MMWR article shows that the shortfall in vaccinations in June to September 2020 in comparison to those months the year before are striking.
Among children aged 9-12 years and adolescents 13-17 years, human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations decreased a typical 12.2% and 28.1 percent, respectively. Among precisely the same age classes, tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccinations dropped 21.3% and 30.0%, respectively.
Perry said that although most of the shortfalls are important, lags in vaccinations for measles and pertussis are particularly alarming in light of outbreaks in the last few decades.