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Report Spotlights Low Child Vaccination Rates Ahead of New School Year

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Tuesday, August 3, 2021   

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Parents are gearing up for their children to return to the classroom for the first time in over a year, and public health experts are concerned many have missed important checkups and vaccinations due to the pandemic.

A report from Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute and the American Academy of Pediatrics details the drop in pediatrician visits in 2020. In California, the group Children Now estimated child vaccination rates were down by more than 10% from 2019 to 2020.

Mike Odeh, director of health policy for Children Now, said programs like Covered California are working to highlight the issue, but more could be done on a state and federal level.

"I think one of the common things we see a lot here in California, as well as I'm sure in other states, is access to culturally and linguistically appropriate care," Odeh contended. "So, that would be just one area that I think could use some work."

Odeh argued the 2014 and 2019 measles outbreaks in Southern California showed health professionals how important it is to take these numbers seriously.

In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported orders for non-influenza childhood vaccines had decreased by a total of 11.7 million doses compared with 2019.

Dr. Lee Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said fears are growing lower vaccination rates could result in fewer communities reaching "herd immunity."

"If too few people in a community are vaccinated against a particular disease, it means that we might see an outbreak of that disease," Beers explained. "We've seen this before with measles and pertussis, and so it's so important to make sure your child is vaccinated, not just to protect themselves, but also to protect everyone around them."

California law requires all children enrolled in school to have certain immunizations, including diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, and for measles, mumps and rubella. In some cases, valid medical exemptions from a physician are accepted.

Disclosure: Children Now/KIDS COUNT contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, and Youth Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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