CORONAVIRUS

Iowa kids skipped vaccines during pandemic

Public health officials urge families to update vaccinations before school

The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was one of three given during a 15-month checkup for Karter McVay in January 2015
The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was one of three given during a 15-month checkup for Karter McVay in January 2015 at UnityPoint Health pediatrics clinic in Hiawatha. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

The number of Iowa children receiving vaccinations dropped by more than half during the novel coronavirus pandemic when compared to last year, prompting concern among officials for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease.

The Iowa Department of Public Health released a new report Friday that details the rate of non-influenza immunizations — such as vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella or polio — for Iowa children and adults.

The report notes the decline in vaccinations may be the result of mitigation efforts for the novel coronavirus. Many doctor offices and clinics were temporarily closed then and unable to provide well-child visits, which include immunizations.

“Recognizing that COVID-19 will likely be circulating in the community for many months to come, providers should consider longer term plans for providing immunizations safely, and communicate the safety provisions to patients,” the report states.

The numbers

The number of vaccines administered during March and April 2020 dropped about 40 percent compared to same months in 2019. April alone saw nearly a 57 percent drop.

Among children between the ages of 4 and 18, administration of non-influenza vaccines in March and April of this year dropped more than 55 percent, officials reported.

Those aged 11 to 12 years and 13 to 18 years saw the largest drop over the course of the pandemic, falling 56.5 percent and 56 percent, respectively. Children up to 13 months of age saw the smallest percent difference with a 29 percent decline.

Back-to-school reminder

Given the drop in vaccines — which other states are seeing, too — public health officials are launching a marketing campaign to encourage families to take their children to doctors for back-to-school immunizations.

Staying up-to-date on vaccines is a key part of “preparing to go back to school during COVID-19,” they said Friday.

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Dr. Caitlin Pedati, state medical director and state epidemiologist, said health providers have made their offices safe for parent and child visits.

“Please take the time now and schedule your family’s well-child and immunization appointments so they are protected from other harmful diseases,” she said in a statement.

Comments: (319) 398-8469; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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