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Routine childhood vaccines see 'troubling' decline, health officials warn

The vaccines include those for measles, polio, chickenpox, tetanus and more. Most of the vaccines have been around for decades.

HOUSTON — Global health officials are flagging a troubling trend among children as routine vaccination rates are the lowest they’ve been in 30 years, according to a new report from the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

“There was a considerable drop in immunization rates in 2021,” said Rekha Lakshmanan, with the non-profit The Immunization Partnership. “By their estimate, about 25 million children missed out on vaccines. This is really really worrisome and troubling.”

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The vaccines include those for measles, polio, chickenpox, tetanus and more. Most of the vaccines have been around for decades.

The CDC’s website shows that over the past 5 years, vaccination numbers in the U.S. have dropped by several percentage points in kids around kindergarten age. For example, during the 2016/2017 school year, the CDC reports 95.2% of children had received their polio vaccine. During the 2020/2021 school year, that number dropped to 93.9%. Most of the other routine vaccinations followed a similar trend.

“We’re starting to see these diseases that we haven’t seen for a very very long time,” warned Lakshmanan.

It’s a downward trend in Texas too. Dr. Suma Manjunath is a pediatrician with Kelsey Seybold Clinic and says she’s noticed the vaccine decline and increased worry from parents.

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“Certainly we are seeing more and more of the vaccine deniers or the hesitancy,” explained Dr. Suma Manjunath. “We try to reassure them and give accurate facts so that they can make the right decisions.”

Dr. Manjunath says on top of vaccine misinformation many kids are behind thanks to missed appointments during the pandemic.

Whatever the reason, with school around the corner, parents are encouraged to talk to their pediatricians.

“Make sure your children are caught up with all the vaccines so that they will be safe from all these preventable diseases,” Dr. Manjunath advised.

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