COVID-19 Has Caused Declines In Childhood Vaccines, Putting Kids At Risk

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and FreshSplash/Getty

You’re probably freaking out about your under-12s contracting the Delta variant. If you have munchkins in school, you religiously wash masks and keep track of masks and yell about masks’ location vis-a-vis your child: “Do you have your mask? Do you have your extra mask? Do you have your extra extra mask?” You sanitize your hand sanitizer. You greeted recent news of a vaccine for under-12s with — well, there may have been some grateful tears. Are you doing all the Covid things? Gold star! High-five! Next question: are your kids up-to-date on all their regular childhood vaccines?

If the answer is “um, but Covid,” we are snatching back your award for social responsibility.

Studies by both the CDC and The American Academy of Pediatrics found that during the pandemic, kids got behind on routine childhood vaccines — dangerously so. For kids 12-23 months and 2-8 years old, the CDC says the rate of MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccination dropped “a median of 22% and 63%”; DTP (diptheria, tetanus, and pertussis, or whooping cough) shots fell “a median of almost 16%” in kids under 24 months, and 60% in kids 2-6 years old. While some parents played catch-up, the CDC found, it wasn’t nearly enough to account for that drop.

The study in Pediatrics looks better on the surface, but had some scarier numbers for measles: the MMR vaccines coverage significantly decreased in under-16 months when comparing 2019 to 2020, “and has only worsened over time.” In all age groups, measles coverage rates remain lower than in 2019.

Get your kids shot up. Stat.

Missing Childhood Vaccines Is A Major Issue

Karen, it’s been a year and a half. Peds know how to separate sick and well sides, to sanitize, and to mask. Your kids know how to sanitize and mask. You can’t play the “I’m afraid my kids will catch Covid at the doctor’s office” card anymore. You know some brat on their bus yanks down his mask daily, and another kid pokes his nose out of his mask and spews aerosolized germs through their classrooms. Or maybe their school doesn’t even have a mask mandate. At any rate, William/Liam and Mia/Amelia are probably snottin’ it up with other children, whose hygiene is compromised in the best of situations. In other words: they are safer in the ped’s office than out of it, for real.

Your misguided desire to avoid Covid has led to mass panic from epidemiologists. And if we’ve learned nothing from Covid, we’ve learned epidemiologists know what they are fucking talking about.

“We understand many families understandably delayed visits to their doctors during the pandemic,” said Yvonne Maldonado, who chairs The American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on infectious diseases. “States have begun opening up, and as families move about in their community, we are concerned that we could see outbreaks of measles, whooping cough and other life-threatening diseases that could spread rapidly.”

You’re worried about your kids picking up Delta. Worried about them picking up the measles yet? If they aren’t caught up on routine childhood vaccines, you should be. Epidemiologists are flipping out, which means you should too, because: epidemiologists know what they are fucking talking about.

William Schaffner, a professor of infectious disease at Vanderbilt University, told NPR that the US vaccination program has been “a big success in public health,” but he’s worried that “this year could see a big backslide in immunity against diseases such as mumps, meningitis, measles or others that had been under control.”

It’s A Great Year To Get Sick … With Measles


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Remember those measles outbreaks in New York City in 2018-2019? That one in Rockland County, New York? What about those cases in Greenville, South Carolina in the same time span? In fact, 2019 was an awesome year for the measles, with 1,249 cases and 22 separate outbreaks.

Last year, the US only had thirteen cases. Because, you know, social distancing.

But measles requires 93-95% coverage to achieve herd immunity. Coverage in the Rockland County outbreak was only 77%. Do you know what coverage at your child’s school is? Probably not, because as Linda Mendonca, president of the National Association of School Nurses, says, many school nurses don’t keep up with who’s had routine childhood vaccines and who hasn’t. And a quarter of schools in the United States don’t have school nurses at all, and in those cases, she says, “I don’t know who does it, honestly.”

And here you thought the vaccine police were coming to knock down your door and snatch your kids. Shudder to think how many people just… don’t vaccinate their kids.

And with the US beginning to open to international travelers as of November, as Schaffner says, diseases like measles are only “a plane ride away.”

During 2019, measles had a 10% hospitalization rate, according to the CDC. On the other hand, even Delta only causes a rate of 49.7 cumulative COVID-19-associated hospitalizations per 100,000 children and adolescents. Measles are much more dangerous than Covid. And you don’t want your kid in the hospital right now, when pediatric ICUs are overwhelmed… with Covid cases. Do you want to go to the hospital? They do not separate sick and well sides because everyone is fucking sick. Also, they probably don’t have a bed.

“The decrease in measles vaccine uptake is very concerning,” said Bradley Ackerson, MD and one of the authors of the Pediatrics study, “as even a 2% to 5% reduction in measles vaccination coverage is projected to result in exponential increases in measles outbreaks.”

Greeaaaaaaat. Delta and measles. What was that about healthcare worker fatigue again?

It’s Not Only Measles

We also have to worry about mumps. We have to worry about HPV, whose rates fell 64% for kids 9-12, and 71% for kids 13-17 compared to 2019 and 2018. Todd Wolynn, chief executive at Pittsburgh-based Kids Plus Pediatrics, points out to Scary Mommy that before the vaccine, around 80% of people would contract HPV. While 90% of them would clear the virus, 10% would not. “There is,” he says, “no predicting who the 10% are, and they will go onto to develop bad HPV disease, pre-cancers, cancers, and related deaths.”

We have to worry about pertussis: in 2019, just over 40% of babies under six months who contracted pertussis were hospitalized, along with 9.7% of those 6-11 months.

There’s meningitis. There’s chicken pox.

If you’re standing around waiting for a Covid vax, but your kid’s missing a chicken pox vaccine, fuck your social responsibility, Karen. This group project we call public health involves all infectious diseases, not just the pandemic. So suck it up, stick on a mask, and march your kid to the doctor’s office. Yeah, they’ll cry. Buy them ice cream or a Lego set or something. But do something. Or your kid’s going to be part of the next wave crowding our hospitals.

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