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Your Healthy Family: Child vaccine rates drop amid COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 8:08 AM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 10:08:38-04

CLEVELAND, OHIO — As families are abiding by statewide ‘stay-at-home’ measures, national data is showing that many children are missing out on crucial vaccines.

According to Kimberly Giuliano, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, experts believe COVID-19 fears are likely keeping many parents from bringing their children in for important immunizations.

“The national data does show that certain vaccination rates have dropped considerably over the past several weeks when the COVID pandemic started,” she said. “Depending on the source, and the vaccine type, it’s anywhere from about 42 to 73 percent declines compared to the weeks leading up to the pandemic.”

Dr. Giuliano said children, especially the very young, need to stay on schedule with their immunizations.

Despite the prevalence of COVID-19, viruses that pose a greater danger to young children are still out there. And the longer vaccines are delayed, the longer children are left unprotected.

“They do not have the immunity that the rest of us have, and there are other diseases out there right now, other than COVID,” she said. “Measles exists in the community, pertussis exists in the community, and these diseases can be fatal to children.”

Dr. Giuliano reminds parents that fortunately, very young children don’t appear to be getting very sick from COVID-19 infections. So the benefit of having a child vaccinated against other deadly diseases is still very significant, even though we are in the middle of a pandemic.

If parents are unsure about bringing their child to the doctor’s office – for any reason – she said it’s always best to call ahead.

“If you have any concern, whatsoever, call you doctor’s office first,” said Dr. Giuliano. “They will tell you if it’s something that can be safely managed at home, or if it’s something that your child should be evaluated for.”