(PRESS RELEASE AND STAFF REPORTS/Department of Health and Chewelah Independent)
The Washington Department of Health said that immunization rates among children appear to be dropping during the COVID-19 pandemic. The department said that this leaves children and communities at risk.
Providers in Washingtons Childhood Vaccine Program reported they administered 30 percent fewer vaccines to 0-18 year olds in March of this year compared with the same month in previous years. In April, preliminarily the department is seeing a 42 percent decrease, but that number may change as April data continue to be reported.
The amount of vaccine ordered by providers in March also fell both in Washington state and nationwide, a press release from the DOH sent out last week said.
“We are concerned that babies and kids arent getting all the vaccines they need to protect them,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, state health officer at the Washington State Department of Health. “Decreasing vaccinations increases the risk that we could see an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease. Parents and guardians should make an appointment right away for any immunizations their child has missed. Parents may be nervous about going in to a clinic. But health care providers are making clinics safe for families to visit.”
Now is the time to catch up, talk to your doctor, nurse, or clinic about ways you can get vaccinated, Lofy said in the press release.
Vaccines and immunizations have been a hot topic in NE Washington, as some question the validity or the safety of these shots. Immunizations, however, are required to enter a child into the public school system unless the parents have a specific exception.
The department and the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics encourage providers to ask any patients who have missed well-child visits or are behind on vaccinations to come in. Prioritize care and vaccination of infants and young children 0 to 24 months of age, followed by children age 4 to 6 years. Find more guidance for providers at https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1600/coronavirus/PleaseContinueVaccinatingPatients.pdf .
For more information on COVID-19, visit the Department of Healths website at https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus or call 1-800-525-0127. You can also text the word coronavirus to 211-211 to receive information and updates on your phone wherever you are.
In every month since January, the number of doses of vaccine given to babies 0-24 months old in WA was lower than the average of the past 5 years.Graph: In February to April, the number of doses of vaccine given to people 0-18 years old in WA was lower than the average of the past 5 years