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Oregon Family Magazine

Concern Grows Over Drop in Immunizations

07/01/2020 08:39PM ● By Pilar Bradshaw, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Pediatricians locally and across the nation are concerned about the health of children in the wake of the COVID-19 health crisis. In addition to increased stress, feelings of isolation due to social distancing, loss of learning time, mental health challenges, and food and economic insecurity, many families have chosen to postpone well-child checkups, including critical immunizations.

Since the start of the pandemic, pediatricians are seeing a 50-70% drop in vaccination rates nationally, compared to the previous year’s average. Even at Eugene Pediatric Associates, where rigorous new standards of social distancing and safety protocols were adopted weeks before Oregon’s governor issued a stay-at-home directive, our year-to-date vaccination rates are down 16%.

This dramatic drop in immunizations is alarming because preemptive care is critical to a child’s health. Preventable diseases, including measles, whooping cough and meningitis, are still a threat. Remember the measles scare we experienced in Lane County last fall? It’s not only unvaccinated children who are in danger of becoming sick. When vaccination rates drop, community-wide protection, known as “herd immunity,” shrinks. If a disease emerges in our region, it will spread more quickly, stay longer and infect more people. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends that babies and children of all ages, including teens, be seen in person for well-checks and vaccinations during the COVID-19 health crisis. We understand parents’ concerns about taking their well children to the doctor’s office out of fear of exposing them to coronavirus, however, all local clinics have taken measures to make your visit safe. We are happy to address your concerns when you call to schedule. Let’s work together to protect our children from preventable illnesses.