Rates of Vaccinations in Children See Decline During COVID-19 Pandemic

The ongoing pandemic has caused a severe decrease in childhood vaccinations, while some rates have recovered, others have not and clinicians are urging caregivers to have their children receive their shots.

A recent study conducted by investigators from the Kaiser Permanente integrated managed care consortium has found that the numbers of recommended vaccine doses administered to children, like the measles vaccine, saw a sharp decrease when a national state of emergency was declared due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results from the study were published in the journal Pediatrics.

For the study, investigators analyzed the uptake and coverage for recommended vaccines at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California. Vaccine uptake is the number of children who are getting their vaccines, while vaccine coverage is the measure of the proportion of children who are vaccinated at a specific age.

The investigators looked at data from January through August of 2020, and compared it with the same period in 2019.

Findings from the study saw an overall decline in children being vaccinated during the pandemic, although it completely recovered in children under the age of 2 by May and somewhat recovered in older children.

Measles vaccinations saw an initial decline of up to 93% among children aged 2 to 18 years old. It slightly recovered but rates remained lower than in 2019. Additionally, measles vaccinations were unchanged in patients aged 7, but significantly decreased in patients aged 16 months and has only worsened over time.

"While the severe decrease in measles vaccine uptake among children improved, measles vaccine uptake remained substantially reduced, so the population of unvaccinated children is continuing to grow," Bradley Ackerson, the lead author on the study said. "The decrease in measles vaccine uptake is very concerning as even a 2% to 5% reduction in measles vaccination coverage is projected to result in exponential increases in measles outbreaks."

Clinicians at Kaiser Permanente are attempting to address this issue by contacting members whose children are due for their vaccinations and offering them reassurance about measures being taken to ensure a safe environment.

They have implemented measures including masking, social distancing, hygiene procedures and separating sick visits from well visits.

"This is a case where the benefit of vaccination far outweighs the risk of visiting a medical office,” Robert Riewerts, a co-author on the study said. “Our medical offices are taking every precaution to keep kids and their families safe."