During a virtual White House coronavirus briefing on Friday, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky revealed that childhood immunizations have dropped by around 11 million doses since COVID-19 broke out in the US.
“I want to share with you another concerning way that COVID-19 is affecting the health of the nation and disrupting our ability to vaccinate children against other infectious diseases,” Walensky said during the briefing, the New York Post reported.
“On-time vaccination throughout childhood is essential because it helps to provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases,” Walensky added.
“During the pandemic, we have seen substantial declines in pediatrician visits, and because of this, CDC orders for childhood vaccinations dropped by about 11 million doses,” she continued, calling the steep decline in childhood immunizations “substantial” and “historic.”
Walensky urged parents to approach their children’s pediatrician to ensure that their children have received all the recommended vaccines.
To date, the CDC recommends 14 different vaccines for children between birth and under the age of 6 to prevent diseases like diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, influenza, measles, mumps and rubella.
“When planning for your child’s safe return to childcare programs or to school, please check with your child’s doctor to make sure that they are up to date on their vaccines … and if they did fall behind, they can get caught up by following CDC’s catch-up immunization schedule,” Walensky said.
This is not the first time that the CDC has identified a link between the COVID-19 pandemic and childhood vaccinations.
A CDC study published in May 2020 found that the number of childhood vaccinations administered in Michigan declined by as much as 22% during the pandemic.
“As the nation continues efforts to mitigate transmission of SARS-CoV-2, disruption of essential health services might occur, including in outpatient settings. Many provider offices have transitioned to telemedicine practices, where possible, to provide continuity of care in the medical home,” the report explains.
“Although some components of a well-child visit can be completed through telemedicine video conferences, immunization services require an in-person visit,” the report adds, warning that unvaccinated children will be more vulnerable to diseases like measles.