April 27, 2022
Catching up on routine childhood and adolescent immunizations
Lisa Cox, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
JEFFERSON CITY, MO – The COVID-19 pandemic has brought disruption to lives in many forms. For many children and families, even routine preventative healthcare has been disrupted. This National Infant Immunization Week, the Missouri Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics (MOAAP) and Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) highly encourage parents to ensure their children get caught up on or stay on track with routine vaccinations starting at birth to help protect them from serious diseases.
“As a parent, one of the best things you can do to protect your child is ensure that they see their doctor for well-child visits and recommended vaccines,” said Paula Nickelson, DHSS Acting Director. “Many vaccine-preventable diseases can have such devastating impacts, especially on vulnerable children. Assuring your child receives the vaccines can help you keep your child as healthy as possible.”
New CDC data show the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on routine childhood immunization. During the 2020-2021 school year, national vaccination coverage dropped from 95% to below 94%, which amounts to 35,000 more children across the U.S. entering kindergarten without documentation of complete vaccination against common diseases. Moreover, nearly 400,000 fewer children entered kindergarten than expected. Those children, too, might not be up to date on their routine vaccinations— further evidence of how pandemic-related disruptions to healthcare and education could have lingering consequences for school-age children.
Routine, safe and effective vaccinations during childhood help prevent 16 diseases. These diseases can have life-altering and sometimes tragic impacts on families. Severe symptoms can include:
- Skin infections
- Pneumonia (serious lung infection)
- Long-term flu-like symptoms
- Infections causing cancer
- Severe dehydration
- Intense muscle spasms
- Brain damage
- Deafness (temporary or permanent)
- Loss of limbs
- Meningitis (swelling of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord)
- Encephalitis (swelling of the brain)
- Orchitis (swelling of the testicles) in males who have reached puberty
- Oophoritis (swelling of the ovaries) and/or mastitis (swelling of the breasts) in females who have reached puberty
The key is for infants, children and adolescents to keep up on their well-child visits for preventive care. These visits allow the doctor to track the child’s growth and development, provide recommended vaccinations and answer questions about the child’s health.
"Immunizations are a key tool to ensuring children stay healthy," said Dr. Kristin Sohl, President, Missouri Chapter-American Academy of Pediatrics. "We encourage parents and caregivers to schedule well-child checks to ensure your child’s overall health and wellbeing, as well as getting them up-to-date on important vaccinations.."
Missouri falls just below the national average, ranking 30th among states, for children ages 0-17 completing one or more well-child visits in 2021.
“Childhood vaccines have all been studied in depth to determine the most appropriate time in a child’s life for them to be given,” said Dr. Rachel Orscheln, Associate Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Washington University in St. Louis Children's Hospital. “We really want to vaccinate children at the earliest possible moment because young children, particularly infants, can be at risk of severe illness from certain infections.”
Among children born from 1994-2018, vaccinations will prevent an estimated 936,000 early deaths, 8 million hospitalizations and 419 million illnesses.
The Vaccines for Children program is funded by the CDC and provides free vaccines to children who qualify. Children 18 and under are eligible to receive free vaccines if they are Medicaid-eligible, do not have health insurance, are American Indian or Alaskan Native or are underinsured. Find the nearest Vaccines for Children program provider.
About the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: The department seeks to be the leader in protecting health and keeping people safe. More information about DHSS can be found at health.mo.gov or find us on Facebook and Twitter @HealthyLivingMo.