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Covid Pandemic Leads to Gaps in Childhood Vaccinations

child vaccine

By Sarah Renninger

NEW YORK – The Covid pandemic has set back vaccination efforts worldwide, with measles cases jumping 79% globally in 2022, United Nations (UN) health experts reported. 

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reports that there was a major drop in childhood vaccination rates, as routine health visits were disrupted due to Covid.   

According to a UNICEF release, 23 million children missed out on basic childhood vaccines in 2020, the highest number since 2009.  

As people return to more social activities, children who have not received routine vaccinations create the perfect storm for the spread of a disease, like measles. 

“Now is the moment to get essential immunizations back on track and launch catch-up campaigns, so that everybody can have access to these lifesaving vaccines,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), in a statement.   

He continued, “The increase in measles cases is a worrying sign of a heightened risk for the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases and could trigger larger outbreaks that impact millions of children.” 

UNICEF agrees, stating, “The health community must ensure that the rollout of Covid vaccines don’t derail routine immunization and that catch-up activities continue to be enhanced.”   

Dr. Sean O’Leary, professor of pediatrics and vice chair of the Committee on Infectious Diseases for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), has been advocating for parents to take their children to their pediatricians for their routine vaccines.   

He commented on National Public Radio (NPR), “Frankly, a lot of the diseases that we vaccinate kids for are more severe in children than Covid, and so the last thing we want as we reenter the school year is outbreaks of these other vaccinepreventable diseases.” 

Measles was eradicated in the U.S. in 2000 due to the success of vaccination efforts. However, it continues to be reintroduced by infected international travelers, anti-vaccination advocates, and missed vaccinations.  

The disease travels quickly through droplets or by direct contact when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes. It is one of the most contagious of all infectious diseases. 

Routine Immunizations and Covid Vaccines 

All 50 states have legislation requiring specific vaccines for students. Exemptions vary from state to state.  

All states require children to be vaccinated against certain communicable diseases as a condition for school attendance. 

Typically, most states require inoculations to protect against polio, diphtheria, pertussis, measles, rubella, mumps, tetanus, meningitis, and chickenpox. 

California will become the first state to require the Covid vaccine for school children after July 1, 2023.  

“We want to end this pandemic. We are all exhausted by it,” stated California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, during a press conference. 

A handful of states have barred schools from requiring the Covid vaccine, including Oklahoma, where state Sen. Rob Standridge, a Republican and pharmacist, stated in a release that he doesn’t feel the government should be forcing parents to vaccinate their children against Covid. 

The AAP supports Covid vaccines and urges families to check with their pediatrician and health care providers about getting their children vaccinated. 

Information on New Jersey Department of Health’s website explains, “Covid vaccines are safe, effective, and accessible.”   

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agrees and recommends everyone six months and older get a Covid vaccine. 

According to the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), many Covid vaccine-related bills prohibiting mandates remain pending in state legislatures. 

Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s (KFF) Vaccine Monitor reports that about 18% of parents with children under 5 are eager to get their child vaccinated; however, more than half of parents of young children say they do not have enough information about the safety of the vaccines for the youngest children. 

The KFF Vaccine Monitor is an ongoing project that tracks the public’s attitudes with Covid vaccinations.  

Their survey reports, “Nearly 40% of parents of children under 5 years of age say they want to wait and see before getting a vaccine for their child.” 

AAP reports that although young children have largely been spared the worst of Covid, they can become seriously ill. Pediatricians worry that the “wait and see” approach could mean many children won’t be protected against Covid in the fall when school begins.  

Some health experts predict another surge in cases. 

New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said in a statement, “We encourage parents of young children to schedule an appointment to get their child vaccinated. Parents who have questions should talk to their pediatrician or health care provider.” 

New Jersey officials have also provided state funds to community-based organizations that offer vaccination programs. The idea is to include Covid immunizations into routine visits and back-to-school checkups. 

Most health care providers agree that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks.  

Will the Covid vaccine be included in the routine vaccine schedule, or will it be offered seasonally, like the flu shot? Scientists are still researching for that answer. 

New Jersey Information 

On the New Jersey Department of Health website, it states that requiring children to receive a series of vaccines prior to school entry helps prevent diseases. When children are together in groups and in classroom settings, there is a chance that serious infections could spread. 

School immunization laws in New Jersey are touted as effective because these laws were established to prevent outbreaks and have protected not just children, but the community, as well.   

Administrators of all New Jersey public and private schools are responsible for ensuring that all students are in compliance with the “Immunization of Pupils in School” regulations. 

The Herald reached out to local urgent care centers and the Cape Regional Heath System. They do not offer vaccines and suggested parents contact a pediatrician. Most health experts advise parents to take children to their family health provider.  

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Primary Care, on Route 9, in Court House, will offer all required vaccines to all children, as stated in a phone interview, but parents must make an appointment. 

The Cape May County Department of Health does not offer the Pfizer vaccine but has two vaccine clinics scheduled. One for adults July 12 and one for children and adults July 26. Both will be held at 6 Moore Road, in Court House.  

They also vaccinate uninsured children or out-of-state children newly enrolling in a county school. 

As parents weigh the risks and benefits of getting their children vaccinated for school entry, or to receive the newest vaccine for Covid, the CDC supports vaccinations as a method that can help prevent the spread of all infectious diseases.   

The CDC noted on its website that the Covid vaccines are being monitored, and it will keep people informed of any findings, using data to make any recommendations. 

In a December 2021 briefing, Gov. Phil Murphy stated, “Vaccines are safe and effective tools against serious illness, hospitalization and death.”   

He also noted, “You never take anything off the table, but there are no plans as we sit here today to mandate vaccines in our kids. 

To contact Sarah Renninger, email srenninger@cmcherald.com. 

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