LAS VEGAS – Immunize Nevada, Nevada’s only statewide nonprofit dedicated to immunizations with offices in Reno and Las Vegas, is concerned about the recent decline in immunization rates throughout Nevada due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The pandemic has caused parents and caregivers in Nevada and across the nation to postpone routine well-child checkups, including immunizations. This puts millions of children at risk for exposure to 14 preventable diseases, including the measles and whooping cough.
“Ensuring children are up to date on their vaccines is critical, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to prevent further outbreaks,” says Heidi Parker, executive director of Immunize Nevada. “COVID-19 is a reminder of the challenges we face when fighting a disease without an available vaccine.”
Since March, Nevada has seen a 64% decrease in routine childhood vaccinations. In recent weeks, Parker says the number of Nevada children being vaccinated has started to go back up gradually, as reported by the Nevada State Immunization Program.
For almost two months now, Nevadans have been directed to stay home and only visit the doctor if necessary, including pediatric visits. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advised doctors to maintain vaccine schedules as persistently as possible, especially for young children.
The CDC’s MMWR report published May 8, 2020 sheds light on successes and where improvement is needed for maintaining childhood vaccines during the pandemic. The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program served as a data collection point to monitor changes in vaccine administration and ordering through the CDC’s Vaccine Tracking System and Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD).
The report highlights a decline in VFC-funded vaccines from January 6, 2020 through April 19, 2020, with an evident dip a week after the declaration of the national emergency. A decline is identified in measles-containing vaccine administration beginning March 16, 2020, but the decrease was less prominent in infants younger than 2 years old.
Late March showed an increase in vaccine rates in younger children when compared to their older counterparts. This slight increase signifies that public health efforts to encourage regularly scheduled vaccinations among infants under 2 had at least some success. Strategies include reminding patients of overdue vaccines and changing office workflows and procedures.
A statement from the Nevada chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics put it this way: “It’s highly recommended children and infants continue to receive their vaccines as originally scheduled. The provider’s office and check-in process will look different. Please contact your provider’s office and ask how they’re handling the coronavirus outbreak to best prepare for your visit.”
As Nevada begins to reopen some businesses and allow more social activities, more people will begin to congregate. And with more children missing their regularly scheduled vaccines, the CDC points out that more of them will be vulnerable to preventable diseases.
Parker urges local parents to contact a health care professional or the local health district to schedule an appointment to catch up on vaccines that may have been missed. Additionally, those who are new to Nevada, or have a child or children entering kindergarten or the 7th grade can schedule an appointment now to avoid the back-to-school rush and ensure that all vaccines are up to date.
Another increasing concern is the loss of employment and health insurance. Immunize Nevada reminds worried parents and others that they do not have to forgo vaccines because of recent job or coverage loss, as the VFC program can help. The program is federally funded and helps to provide vaccines at little or no cost for eligible children through medical practices that are VFC-enrolled. VFC provides vaccines to about 60% of all children in Nevada. More information on eligibility can be found at Nevada’s VFC website.
Parents and caregivers can also access their children’s vaccine records through Nevada WebIZ, Nevada’s private online system that houses vaccination records and related information. Navigating its public access portal is simple and can be done from home. If assistance is needed, e-mail email@example.com or call (775) 684-5954.
About Immunize Nevada
Immunize Nevada is widely recognized as Nevada’s trusted resource for immunizations and community health for all ages by fostering education and statewide collaboration. Immunize Nevada’s vision is healthy communities across Nevada protected from vaccine-preventable disease. For more information, visit ImmunizeNevada.org.