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Consequences Of A Crisis: Vaccination Rates Down

posted by AHIP

on August 24, 2020

For months many of us have been hunkering down at home, wearing a mask in public, and maintaining a respectful social distance, per the recommendations of public health experts to quell the spread of COVID-19. One consequence is that many have postponed routine medical appointments.

The number of vaccinations ordered by physicians dropped steeply after the national emergency was declared on March 13, reports Vaccines for Children – a CDC program that distributes vaccines at no cost to children who may otherwise go unvaccinated. Globally, WHO also reports a decline in vaccination rates when compared to 2019 – affecting as many as 80 million children. Outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases “will also overwhelm health systems already battling the impacts of COVID-19,” the WHO notes.

The coronavirus has captured our attention, but the value of routine immunizations is well documented. The WHO estimates vaccines save between 2-3 million lives each year. Staying up to date on routine immunizations is important both to reduce the resurgence of these preventable diseases as well as their impact on health care facilities already stressed by the coronavirus crisis.

Even as many states allow businesses to reopen and loose restrictions designed to prevent disease transmission, COVID-19 is still very much present in communities around the country. Some experts predict there may be another wave of the disease in the fall, perhaps exacerbated by schools reopening.

In particular, the CDC says influenza vaccination will be even more important in 2020, “to reduce the impact of respiratory illnesses in the population and resulting burdens on the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Flu and COVID-19 could be circulating together as we move into the fall and winter months,” said Jay Butler, CDC Deputy Director of Infectious Diseases. “If anything, we must be overprepared for what we might face later this year.”

Health insurance providers know vaccines save lives, and are taking steps to increase vaccination rates in both children and adults. Many vaccinations are available through private health plans with no cost sharing for patients, making it easier for people to be protected. As scientists race to create a COVID-19 vaccine, protection from preventable diseases like measles and influenza remains a priority.

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