This story appeared in Politico. Read more here.
Kids aren’t catching up on routine shots they missed during the pandemic. Many vaccination proponents point to Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy as a big reason why.
Public health experts, pediatricians, school nurses, immunization advocates and state officials in 10 states told our Megan Messerly and Krista they are worried that an increasing number of families are projecting their attitudes toward the Covid-19 vaccine onto shots for measles, chickenpox, meningitis and other diseases.
Immunization rates for children plummeted during the pandemic. In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saw a 15 percent drop from pre-pandemic levels in states’ orders for Vaccines for Children, the federal program that provides free vaccinations for about half the children in the country. In 2021, order levels were about 7 percent lower than pre-pandemic levels, according to the CDC.
Within those national figures are more dramatic trends in some conservative states. In Florida, where last month the surgeon general announced that healthy children might not benefit from Covid vaccines, two-year-old routine rates for all immunizations in county-run facilities dropped from 92.1 percent in 2019 to 79.3 percent in 2021. And, in Idaho, the number of kids who received their first dose of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine by age 2 decreased from roughly 21,000 in 2018 and 2019 to 17,000 in 2021.
A chart showing how many North Dakota kindergarteners did not receive Diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis, Measles/mumps/rubella, Polio, Hepatitis B and Chickenpox vaccines in each school year from 2011-12 to 2021-22. Unvaccinated rates were decreasing before the start of the pandemic, but the rates of children who had not received each vaccine all climbed since the 2019-2020 school year.
A spillover of vaccine hesitancy may also be fueling an uptick in religious-exemption requests from parents of school-aged children and is making it more difficult for states to catch up with children who missed immunizations during the pandemic’s early days when families skipped doctor’s appointments, the CDC said.
Several bills were introduced in state legislatures last year to limit vaccinations, including one that would have ended immunization requirements in schools. Other states considered legislation that would have either removed or chipped away at school-vaccination requirements, though none moved forward then.