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“I cannot understate how important it is that we get vaccinated and we do our best to protect against these diseases,” said Dr. Jill Roberts, Associate Professor for the USF College of Public Health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that a lower percentage of kindergartners received required vaccines last year, down to 94%. That’s another percentage lower than the year prior.
“I actually saw a case the other day of tetanus. In this day and age, you should never see a case of tetanus and a death from tetanus is just awful. It’s completely preventable and a horrific way for a child to die,” said Roberts.
Experts think this decline in routine vaccines could be caused by two factors— one is a lack of access to the doctor during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People wanted to make appointments, it was hard to get in. Plus there was some hesitancy nobody wanted to go to a doctor’s office that was filled with COVID patients,” said Roberts.
Researchers believe another factor is vaccine hesitancy caused by social media.
Vaccine hesitancy has been around for decades, but what’s different right now is the use of social media to spew misinformation.
“I don’t want parents to have any hesitancy about routine childhood vaccines. There is an incredible amount of data out there about those vaccines. Please do not use social media as your source for information. Go to your healthcare provider,” said Roberts.
Doctors are growing more concerned as the numbers continue to drop.
“Anytime you take away these vaccines we run the risk of a resurgence of all these diseases that we’ve worked so hard to get rid of,” said Roberts.
“Unfortunately the vaccinated diseases didn’t disappear. We don’t see them because of the vaccines. During COVID we saw a resurgence of polio, not in the U.S., but in other countries. It absolutely could come here. Polio exists in water, it exists in other countries, it can jump on a plane,” she added.
According to health officials, if the number of kids who don’t get routine vaccines reaches a certain percentage, it can impact everyone regardless of vaccination status.
“People who are vaccinated, the vaccines only have a certain amount of efficacy so we have to get to around 95% of people vaccinated to prevent the spread of measles. If we drop below that threshold, anybody can catch measles. Some of those individuals who are vaccinated, that vaccine is not going to work for them and they can catch measles,” said Roberts.