Childhood Immunization Rates Fall Amidst Pandemic Fears
After the pandemic declaration in March, office visits for immunizations among Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) members significantly dropped between March and May compared with the number of visits reported during the same period in 2019.
Parents nationwide have cancelled pediatric check-ups. Immunization levels for vaccine-preventable diseases have plummeted, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Well-child office visits have decreased 50%1 and doses distributed2 through the federally funded Vaccines for Children program have dropped significantly.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have reported3 a decline in the number of children receiving life-saving vaccines around the world.
"Vaccines are one of the most powerful tools in the history of public health, and more children are now being immunized than ever before," says Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general. "But the pandemic has put those gains at risk. The avoidable suffering and death caused by children missing out on routine immunizations could be far greater than COVID-19 itself."4
What We Are Doing About It
Recognizing the urgency, BCBSMT teams are using tools and pilot programs to help identify opportunities to increase member immunization rates. We are mapping vaccination rates geographically, mobilizing our Care Vans in new ways to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines to offer support to local vaccination clinics where they are needed most and reaching out to members who have missed or delayed vaccines for their children. But we can't do it alone.
What You Can Do About It
As a trusted health care professional, you play a vital role in educating parents about the importance of vaccination.
- Ensure your patients are up to date on all vaccinations
- Encourage parents with children under two years old to make appointments to vaccinate their children.
- Share your pandemic safety protocol to ease their concerns and increase their comfort in visiting your office
- Discuss options for vaccinations with the parents of your patients
- Share material5 with parents that give solid evidence for the efficacy and safety of vaccines
Learn more during National Immunization Awareness Month6 .
The above material is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician. Physicians and other health care providers are encouraged to use their own best medical judgment based upon all available information and the condition of the patient in determining the best course of treatment. References to third party sources or organizations are not a representation, warranty or endorsement of such organizations. Any questions regarding those organizations should be addressed to them directly. The fact that a service or treatment is described in this material is not a guarantee that the service or treatment is a covered benefit and members should refer to their certificate of coverage for more details, including benefits, limitations and exclusions. Regardless of benefits, the final decision about any service or treatment is between the member and their health care provider.
1 National Foundation for Infectious Diseases; #COVID-19 and Routine Vaccinations: What Parents Need To Know, April 28, 2020; https://www.nfid.org/2020/04/28/covid-19-and-routine-vaccinations-what-parents-need-to-know/
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 15, 2020; Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Routine Pediatric Vaccine Ordering and Administration – United States, 2020; https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6919e2.htm
3,4 WHO; WHO and UNICEF warn of a decline in vaccinations during COVID-19, July 15, 2020; https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/15-07-2020-who-and-unicef-warn-of-a-decline-in-vaccinations-during-covid-19
5 CDC; National Immunization Awareness Month, Educational Resources for Parents and Patients; https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niam/parents/educational-resources.html
6 CDC; National Immunization Awareness Month; https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niam/index.html