It’s National Immunization Awareness Week.
Baltimore, Md (KM) We’re in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that does not mean you should slack off when it comes to getting your vaccinations. That advice comes from Dr. Cheryl DePinto, Director of the Office of Population Health Improvement at the Maryland Department of Health. “Vaccines are one of the greatest public health triumphs and have been a great benefit in the reduction of communicable diseases,” she says. “So vaccinations are very important to the overall well being of children and communities.”
They’ve also decreased the number of people who contract these communicable diseases. “And since vaccine-preventable conditions are very, very contagious, vaccines prevent outbreaks of diseases such a measles and whooping cough,” says Dr. DePinto.
August is National Immunization Awareness Month which was developed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stress the importance of vaccinations for people of all ages, according to a news release from the Maryland Department of Health.
When the coronavirus pandemic began earlier this year, many businesses, including physicians’ offices, were closed to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Dr. DePinto says that also resulted in a drop in vaccinations. “In Maryland, what we have seen really mirrors what we’ve been seen across the country in that we’ve seen significant decreases in childhood vaccinations as a result of the pandemic,” she says.
The largest decrease was in the number of vaccinations given to children through 18 years of age. It was a decrease of 46% in April, 2020 compared to April, 2019. In June, 2020, that percentage decrease was reduced to 14% compared April, 2019, according to the Health Department.
And this is worrisome, says Dr. DePinto. “Vaccine-preventable diseases overall have largely been eliminated. But if we have large groups of children who not vaccinated, we are at risk for outbreaks of serious conditions such as measles and whooping cough. And so we really need to have children get vaccinations so we don’t risk having outbreaks,” she says.
At this time of year, parents are usually encouraged to get their children vaccinated for the new school year. But many kids will be attending classes on line due to concerns about the coronavirus. Dr. DePinto says it’s still important for children to be vaccinated, even if they’re not going into actual classrooms. “So even though children will be doing remote learning, they’re still very important members of families and communities. And eventually, they will be back to school and engaging with others in their communities. So it’s very important that they continue to be vaccinated,” she said.
As a way to help reverse the decline in vaccinations, the Maryland Department of Health last month received a $250,000 grant from the Pfizer Foundation. The money will be used to conduct outreach to individuals, communities and health providers through communication, marketing and vaccination clinics in areas showing the most significant declines.
By Kevin McManus