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Infant vaccination rates down in Virginia, experts say

Posted at 5:58 AM, Apr 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-25 07:17:47-04

RICHMOND, Va. — Monday marks the start of a week aimed at encouraging Virginians to prioritize child vaccinations.

National Infant Immunization Week is recognized from April 25 through 29 as an opportunity to remind caregivers about the importance of protecting children aged two and younger from vaccine-preventable diseases.

ImmunizeVa is a collation of the Institute for Public Health Innovation, the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Minus 9 to 5, an initiative of Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS).

The groups work to encourage Virginians to maintain the recommended youth vaccine schedule.

Rebecca Epstein serves as senior program manager at ImmunizeVa.

“We are still not back to where we were [pre-pandemic],” Epstein explained. “Even the smallest decrease in immunizations could have a huge impact on the life of a small child, especially the diseases that children under two are protected from include measles, polio, influenza, diphtheria. I could go on. But these are highly infectious diseases.”

The 2021 Virginia Annual Immunization Survey saw a notable decrease in kindergarten entry vaccination rates. From 2019 to 2020, the percentage of immunizations required for school entry decreased from 84.8% to 80.4%.

“Children should get vaccinated during their next doctor’s visit or at their local Virginia Department of Health [vdh.virginia.gov]. The Virginia Vaccines for Children [vdh.virginia.gov] program provides vaccines at no cost to children for eligible caregivers,” according to a press release.

Dangerous outbreaks of preventable diseases could follow if vaccination rates decline below levels required to maintain herd immunity, the Georgetown Center for Children and Families reported.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many disruptions in families’ lives. In some cases, it has meant that children have missed or delayed their wellness checkups and critical vaccines,” said Michael Martin, MD, FAAP, President of the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Vaccines are critical to ensuring children stay healthy.”

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