Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the pandemic interrupted more than school for students in kindergarten through 12th grade — in the 2020-21 school year, the number of kindergarteners who received all their state-required vaccines dropped by one percentage point.
While one percentage point may not seem like much, the amount of children enrolled in kindergarten also decreased, which could mean that there are more children who aren’t vaccinated against preventable communicable diseases like chickenpox, measles and mumps.
From the CDC: “Diseases You Almost Forgot About (Thanks to Vaccines)”
Stephanie Woehl, communicable disease prevention coordinator for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, hopes that people don’t lose sight of the importance of preventative medicine just because the illnesses aren’t as common.
“We’ve created a preventive climate where we’ve done a really good job of utilizing this tool, utilizing vaccine to stop the spread of illnesses that they’ve become so rare that we have kind of put ourselves in a situation where we don’t remember how bad it was before we got the vaccine,” Woehl said. “It seems like (the vaccines are) less important, but they’re just as important now as it was in the beginning because if we don’t continue to use that tool, then we will see a resurgence of vaccine-preventable illnesses and it may be with our kids.”
Getting chickenpox used to be a childhood rite of passage. In the early 1990s, prior to the varicella vaccine, the United States saw 4 million cases of chickenpox and 100 to 150 deaths annually, according to the CDC. As of 2010, there were about 350,000 cases in the United States and fewer than 20 people dying each year from the disease annually.
The World Health Organization and UNICEF also recently expressed concern over the “perfect storm” of conditions that could result in measles outbreaks.
In the first two months of 2022, 17,338 measles cases were reported worldwide, compared to 9,665 during the first two months of 2021, according to the news release. WHO and UNICEF cited pandemic-related disruptions, inequality in vaccine access and diversion of resources from immunization campaigns as part of the issue.
One of the ways that parents can keep kids healthy is through regular check-ups.
“As a parent, one of the best things you can do to protect your child is ensure that they see their doctor for well-child visits and recommended vaccines,” said Paula Nickelson, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services acting director, in a press release. “Many vaccine-preventable diseases can have such devastating impacts, especially on vulnerable children. Assuring your child receives the vaccines can help you keep your child as healthy as possible.”
Susan Szuch is the health and public policy reporter for the Springfield News-Leader. Follow her on Twitter @szuchsm. Story idea? Email her at [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: CDC: Fewer children received vaccines in 2020-21 school year