Why getting routine vaccines for kids remains important

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Utah health officials said the COVID-19 pandemic created some challenges when it comes to kids getting their routine vaccinations.

In 2020, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) data shows vaccine orders from pediatricians dropped off for a time.

“If we go back to May the orders were about 6,500 and have dropped down to 5,000. So, that’s about a 1,500 difference in May in orders,” said Rich Lakin, UDOH’s immunization director.

MountainStar Healthcare’s Dr. Abdelaziz Farhat, who works in the pediatric intensive care unit at Mount Timpanogos Hospital, said he saw fewer kids (around 5-to-10-years-old) getting their booster shots during the height of the pandemic.

“Part of the reasoning I got from the families were, ‘Well, he’s older, they got their first shot for that shot,’” Dr. Farhat said. “And so, they were more comfortable waiting out until things calmed down a little bit before going back in to see their PCP.”

And Lakin also shared some examples of why the pandemic created vaccination challenges.

“With COVID, it was little bit more difficult for parents to get them into their physician’s office and then with school closures, and classroom, home teaching, it did make it a little more difficult for parents with their children to try and keep them on schedule,” he said.  

By the end of 2020, Lakin said data showed some kids ended up going in to get their routine vaccines.

“That 6,500 down to 5,000 has kind of narrowed. It’s almost gone back to where it should be,” he said. “So, what that means is parents have gotten their children back in and gotten them up to date.”

By the end of 2021, Lakin anticipates children immunization rates to be closer to pre-pandemic averages.

Both Lakin and Dr. Farhat said with some parents opting out of vaccinating their children, some vaccine preventable diseases are starting to come back.

“Unfortunately, right now, across the country, we’re seeing some of these bugs reemerge again as there’s some vaccine hesitancy,” Dr. Farhat said.

For children who are unvaccinated, he said they have an increased risk of contracting an illness.  

“Unfortunately, some of these kids have negative outcomes including lifelong disability or even death, for the ones who are not vaccinated,” Dr. Farhat said. “And that’s why vaccines are pretty important.”

With COVID-19 vaccines likely becoming available for 5-to-11-year-olds this week, Lakin said he anticipates a slower start to vaccination.

“I would expect that even 5-to-11, the impact to that group is less likely, so I would anticipate that the rollout would be very slow, but it would be gradual, more like the 12-to-15-year-olds,” he said.

Lakin said vaccination is one of the “greatest public health achievements” and many diseases have been eliminated because of it.

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