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Health Matters: Childhood immunization rates drop during pandemic

Dr. Sandy McKay with UT Physicians said it should be a wake-up call for parents.

HOUSTON — "Vaccines bring us closer" was the theme for this year’s World Immunization Week which ran through the last week of April.

Vaccines and immunizations have never been more important.

The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said as more people get protected against COVID-19, they’ll be able to come together physically and without masking or social distancing.

The focus has been on getting people the COVID-19 vaccine to curb the spread of the virus, but Dr. Sandra McKay with UT Physicians said other vaccines, especially for children, are just as important.

McKay, an associate professor and pediatrician, said during the pandemic there’s been a significant drop in doctor visits.

 “When that doesn’t happen with children that often means that children can become behind on their vaccines,” she said.

McKay said recent studies show overall in the U.S. there’s about a 45% decline in general childhood vaccination rates.

“So that includes your other vaccines outside of COVID like your MMR to protect you against measles, protect your child against pertussis or polio,” McKay said.

She said another study shows only 50% of infants at the moment who are five months are up-to-date on their vaccines.

McKay said it should be a wake-up call for parents.

“For me, it’s incredibly alarming because I’m looking at these diseases that we have good prevention measures for and if we don’t use those prevention measures then there comes that risk of having a return of disease,” McKay said.

She said staying on top of these vaccines can push some of these diseases to near elimination.

It also creates a bubble of protection around those who can’t get vaccinated.