The coronavirus pandemic has greatly disrupted the routine vaccination of children in the US, with childhood immunizations dropping by roughly 11 million doses, the head of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
“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,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a virtual White House coronavirus briefing.
“On-time vaccination throughout childhood is essential because it helps to provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases,” Walensky said, explaining, “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.”
Walensky called that figure “a substantial and historic decline.”
As the country works toward fully reopening its schools for in-person learning, “we certainly do not want to encounter other preventable infectious outbreaks such as measles and mumps,” Walensky said.
Walensky urged parents to check in with their children’s pediatrician to make sure they have gotten all the recommended vaccines.
“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.
She added, “This pandemic has taken so much from us already. We must work together to protect our children’s health now and in the future.”
Meanwhile, more than 98.2 million COVID-19 doses have been administered in the country since inoculation efforts began in mid-December, according to the latest data from the CDC.
The US is now giving about 2.2 million shots per day, according to White House officials.
Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations “remain high,” Walensky said, noting, “We’ve been fooled before into being too lax, so now is the time to double down.”
Cases continue to “fluctuate” between 50,000 and 60,000 new ones per day, she said.
“The most recent seven-day average of hospital admissions continues to decline down from the previous seven-day period to about 4,900 admissions per day,” said Walensky.
The US continues to see between 1,500 and 1,800 COVID-19 deaths a day, the CDC director explained.