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Vaccinations Need a Boost After Pandemic Negatively Affects Rates, Long-term Health of U.S. Children

September 30, 2020

Vaccination rates among children have rapidly decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to preliminary data released last week by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) cover nearly 40 million children across the United States, including 75% of those living in poverty and many with special needs requiring additional medical services. A decrease in vaccinations for them is likely to affect their long-term health.

Now, with many schools opting for online classes, many yearly checkups and vaccinations required to attend in-person schooling are being delayed. Since primary and preventive services are paramount to ensuring the long-term well-being of children, CMS is stressing the importance of restoring the delivery of preventive care services.

Key findings in the preliminary data from March to May 2020 (compared to the equivalent timeframe in 2019) released by CMS include:

  • 22% (1.7 million) decrease in vaccinations for children under the age of 2
  • 44% (3.2 million) decrease in child screening services
  • 69% (7.6 million) decrease in the delivery of dental services
  • 44% (6.9 million) decrease in the delivery of outpatient mental health services, including telehealth visits

Although telehealth use increased about 2,500% between February to May 2020, the drastic increase did not offset the decline in health care treatment, particularly with vaccinations that can only be administered in person. To compensate for the 22% decrease in vaccinations in recent months, vaccination rates need to be much higher than 2019 to decrease the risk of preventable illnesses such as influenza, and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR).

To increase vaccination rates, clinicians should encourage patients who are hesitant to visit a clinic to get their vaccines wherever is most convenient for them such as drugstores with walk-in pharmacies. The website https://vaccinefinder.org/ is a resource to help families find their closest vaccine administration site. If you need help improving immunization rates in your clinic, contact Jim Bugg at jbugg@hqi.solutions or watch the recording of our webinar “Give Vaccines a Shot: Addressing Influenza Immunizations During COVID-19.”

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