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Pediatric vaccinations down nearly 40% for some age groups during the pandemic

Falling behind in vaccinations increases the risk of outbreaks of diseases like the measles, health experts say.

SEATTLE — While the COVID-19 vaccine is the talk of the world right now, the typical vaccines children get to prevent things like chickenpox and meningitis are significantly down since the start of the pandemic, according to health experts.

Pediatricians are warning of the dangers this presents.

"Unfortunately, during the pandemic child vaccinations are down,” said Dr. Jasmine Zavala, adolescent medicine physician and clinical director of Sea Mar’s Adolescent Clinic.

It's across the board for all age groups.

The Washington State Department of Health compiled data from the start of the pandemic to September 2020.

Pediatric vaccinations rates in Washington state:

  • Overall down 18.8%
  • Kids 0-24 months down 10.3%
  • Kids 4-6 years down 24.8%
  • Kids ages 11-12 down 37.9%
  • Kids ages 13-17 down 35%

Zavala said it’s a combination of factors causing the down turn.

"We totally understand that parents may be hesitant to come in to clinics,” Zavala told KING 5.

Concerns over COVID-19 are stopping many parents from bringing kids in for a check-up, but also, most children have not been to school in-person for nearly a year.

"These vaccines are required for school and sports participation," Zavala said.

Without reminders from schools to update vaccination records, parents may simply not realize their child’s vaccinations aren’t up to date.

“While schools are trying to figure out how to make a safe environment of readiness for everybody to return, it’s a great time for families and patients to come back into the clinic to get ready and make sure that their vaccinations are up to date,” she said.

Falling behind in vaccinations increases the risk of outbreaks of diseases like the measles.

“We’ve had outbreaks, we’ve had measles outbreaks, we’ve had mumps outbreaks and we know that these vaccines are just super important to prevent outbreaks like that from happening so we can prevent serious consequences down the line,” Zavala said.

The Department of Health said in a statement to KING 5, "We encourage all providers to ask any patients who have missed well-child visits or immunizations to reschedule and go in for those appointments. Parents and guardians should make an appointment right away for any missed immunizations. 

"Slowing or stopping immunizations increases the risk that we could experience an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease. Adding more outbreaks on top of COVID-19 not only puts more people’s health at risk, it also could overload the health care system.”

The biggest piece of advice from medical professionals, if you feel uncomfortable taking your kid into a doctor's office right now, call the office ahead of time and ask what safety measures they have in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Clinics have really done a great job. My clinic has really created two different waiting rooms, we don’t have people from different families in  the same area, we make sure that we room patients immediately, we make sure that if there is a line at check in that everybody’s more than six feet apart. And my clinic is just one example of what several clinics are doing make sure that all, everyone is safe,” Zavala said.