Missing vaccinations during Covid-19 puts our children and communities at risk.
Many Americans have delayed or stopped receiving routine and preventive care during the Covid-19 crisis. Unfortunately, this has meant significant drops in critical childhood vaccinations—a development that could affect community protections against serious diseases. To prevent further risk to our children and our communities, it’s vital that children receive the recommended vaccinations on time or catch up on vaccinations missed as a result of the pandemic.
Decreases in Vaccinations
There has been an up to 26 percent drop in measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); Diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (DTaP); and polio vaccines between January and September of 2020. An estimated 9 million doses of these vaccines could be missed by the end of 2020. This increases the risk of measles and whooping cough outbreaks and lowers current community protections against these diseases.
Doses of vaccine administered in 2019 and 2020
Doses of DTaP vaccines administered in March of 2020, when state lockdowns began, were roughly equal to those administered in 2019, but by August 2020, when many children went back to school, administered doses were down 26 percent from August of 2019. The same decrease was seen in MMR, while polio saw a 16 percent decrease over the same period. 40 percent of parents say their children missed vaccinations due to Covid-19. (Source: BCBSA Childhood & Adolescent Vaccinations Trends, Sept 2020. A survey of 2,000 parents.)
When we applied the decreases in vaccinations to the national population, we estimate as many as 9 million doses of MMR (36 percent), DTaP (25 percent), and polio vaccines (38 percent) could be missed by the end of 2020.
Reduced community protection for our children and communities against measles, whooping cough and polio
The herd immunity threshold for MMR is 93 percent, but its vaccination rate in 2019 was 91.5 percent and the estimated vaccination rate for 2020 is 88.2 percent.
The herd immunity threshold for DTaP is 92 percent, but its vaccination rate in 2019 was 81.8 percent and the estimated vaccination rate for 2020 is 79.3 percent.
The herd immunity threshold for polio is 86 percent. Both its vaccination rate in 2019 and its estimated vaccination rate for 2020 exceed that—92.9 percent and 88.9 percent, respectively.
Losing herd immunity could erode protection for children and communities against diseases kept at bay, or nearly eradicated, for decades. Vaccination rates for measles and whooping cough were already trending downward before the pandemic, well below community protection levels. Herd immunity is the resistance of a community, in total, to the invasion and spread of an infectious agent as a result of a large proportion of individuals in the group being immunized.
If missed vaccines are not made up soon, our communities are at risk of seeing outbreaks of childhood diseases like measles and whooping cough. In addition, Covid-19 led many children to miss polio vaccinations, a disease that has largely been fully eradicated but could reemerge.
We encourage parents to take their children in for wellness visits and to take measures to catch up on any missed vaccinations. Precautions can be taken to keep you and your child safe from Covid-19 while visiting the doctor. Wear masks, use hand sanitizer and wash hands frequently. In addition, healthcare providers across America are taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of patients who visit their offices.