Forty percent of parents surveyed by the national Blue Cross Blue Shield Association reported that their children missed vaccinations over the last year due to COVID-19. National Infant Immunization Week—part of World Immunization Week—provides an opportunity to remind families to get their children back on track for routine vaccinations.
Observed April 24 through May 1, National Infant Immunization Week highlights the importance of protecting children two years and younger from vaccine-preventable diseases. Since March 2020, however, there’s been a dramatic drop in children’s well visits and routine vaccinations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Now more than ever, it’s critical that clinicians reinforce the vital role vaccination plays in protecting children.
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CDC Releases Updated Vaccination Schedules
In addition to protecting against disease, childhood immunizations are a fundamental strategy in meeting public health goals, including curtailing antimicrobial resistance, controlling viral hepatitis, and providing a bridge to adolescent healthcare.
To help keep vaccinations on schedule, the CDC released a revised Immunization Schedule for Birth through 15 Months for 2021. For children whose vaccinations have been delayed, the CDC developed a Catch-Up Vaccination Schedule for ages 4 through 18. Here’s an overview of the changes to the schedule, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):
- Updated language on the use of influenza vaccines in people with egg allergies with symptoms other than hives
- Additional information on severe allergic reactions
- Updated language on the use of antiviral medications and administering the Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIV4), a nasal spray
- Additional options on Meningococcal ACWY and Meningococcal B vaccines
- A recommendation that all children 6 months and older be vaccinated to prevent influenza this season
“Vaccine-preventable diseases don’t disappear during a pandemic,” says Adam Farmer, M.D., MBA, a Mednax-affiliated pediatric hospitalist at Ogden Regional Medical Center in Ogden, Utah.
“It’s vital that we keep our patients safe and their immune systems strong no matter what situation the world is in at the moment.”
Tips for Parents
In this day and age, you rarely hear of outbreaks of polio, whooping cough, chickenpox or rubella, thanks to routine vaccinations. However, globally over the last few years, there have been multiple outbreaks of measles, diphtheria and various other vaccine-preventable diseases, according to the WHO. Physicians and other clinicians are following CDC guidelines and additional steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that you and your child can be seen safely in the office.
Some facts about vaccines:
- Vaccines protect us from deadly diseases by working with the body’s natural defenses to stop us from getting sick.
- The ingredients in vaccines help ensure they are safe and effective for you and your family.
- It’s important that infants, children and adults get the vaccines they need on time.
Protecting your baby from whooping cough and flu begins before he or she is born. It’s recommended that pregnant women receive the whooping cough vaccine (Tdap) and inactivated influenza vaccine during each pregnancy. Then, once your child is born, ensuring they receive recommended vaccinations by age two is the best way to protect them from other serious childhood diseases, including whooping cough and measles.
As warmer weather brings more opportunities to socialize, the CDC recommends that you ensure your child’s vaccinations are up to date. You can use the CDC’s Child Vaccination Questionnaire to find out. The good news is that your pediatrician can help your child get caught up if they’ve missed a shot.
Have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and children or teens? Dr. Zachary Hoy, a Pediatrix-affiliated pediatric infectious disease specialist at Nashville Pediatric Infectious Disease in Tennessee, was recently interviewed by Romper.