childhood vaccination


CDC, Pediatricians: Here's Why Your Child’s Routine Vaccinations are So Important

A lag in routine vaccinations for children that began during the pandemic – including the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) shots — continues into the new year and may result in disease outbreaks among kids, public health officials caution. Additionally, the number of kindergarteners whose parents or caregivers are opting them out of routine vaccines has reached an all-time high, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC warns that this trend “increases the risk for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases” such as measles and whooping cough.

Globally, measles vaccination coverage has steadily declined since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, a record high of nearly 40 million children missed a measles vaccine dose, according to a separate report from the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Javier A. Hiriart, M.D., a pediatrician and internal medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care, Family Medicine Center at West Kendall Baptist Hospital.

States the CDC: “Nationwide, vaccination coverage among kindergarten students remains below pre-pandemic levels, and exemptions have increased. Because clusters of under-vaccinated children can lead to outbreaks, it is important for immunization programs, schools, and providers to make sure children are fully vaccinated before school entry, or before provisional enrollment periods expire.”

In previous years, nearly all states had the potential to achieve 95 percent or better coverage if all nonexempt students were vaccinated, the CDC explains. But increases in state-level exemptions have reduced that number by 17 percent, from 48 states in 2020–21 to 40 states in 2022–23.

Measles is a threat everywhere because the virus can quickly spread to multiple communities and across international borders. Measles is one of the most contagious viruses in the world, and beyond flu-like symptoms and a rash that begins in the head area, it can develop very serious complications, such as pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain).

From the 2019–20 to the 2021–22 school year, national coverage with state-required vaccines among kindergartners declined from 95 percent to about 93 percent, ranging from 92.7 percent for diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP) to 93.1 percent for polio, the CDC states. The CDC’s latest updated found that during the 2022–23 school year, coverage remained near 93 percent for all reported vaccines, ranging from 92.7 percent for DTaP to 93.1 percent for measles, mumps, and rubella and polio. The exemption rate increased 0.4 percentage points to 3.0 percent. Exemptions increased in 41 states, exceeding 5 percent in 10 states.

Pediatricians are adamant about reminding parents of the vital importance of their children’s routine vaccination shots. State and local school vaccination requirements serve to protect students against potentially serious, vaccine-preventable diseases. 

“I would implore and advise parents to make sure their children are getting their routine healthcare – including standard vaccinations,” said Javier A. Hiriart, M.D., a pediatrician and internal medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary CareFamily Medicine Center at West Kendall Baptist Hospital. “Although the COVID-19 pandemic certainly affected the entire healthcare system, I cannot emphasize enough the importance and value of prevention.”

While Dr. Hiriart and his colleagues noted a general decline in patients of all ages accessing preventive care -- such as immunizations, annual physicals and well-child visits – early during the COVID-19 pandemic, doctor visits are now at pre-pandemic levels. "My best advice for parents with doubts about standard vaccinations is to speak with their pediatrician or primary care provider to address them.  Correct and timely information and guidance can almost always dispel doubts, misgivings and misinformation, ” said Dr. Hiriart.

Dr. Hiriart adds that childhood vaccines have been proven to be extremely safe and effective.

“These vaccines have a long track record of being very effective in preventing diseases that used to cause many complications – from deafness, paralysis, and meningitis – to even death,” explains Dr. Hiriart. “Recent dips in measles vaccination rates in certain communities have led to outbreaks – showing how contagious and potentially dangerous measles still is. The best way to protect our children is by continuing to vaccinate them.”  

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With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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