Department of Health Highlights Declines in Childhood Vaccination Rates

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Childhood vaccination rates have fallen 13% during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to pre-pandemic levels, particularly among young children, according to a statement by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH).

Now, the DOH and health care providers are trying to get families caught up on immunizations.

“The pandemic has been difficult for everyone. Disruptions to schooling, childcare and in-person health care made it hard for some families to stay up to date on their shots … We encourage parents and caregivers to schedule their well-child visits as soon as possible, to make sure their kids are happy, healthy, meeting developmental milestones and ready for school,” said Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, chief science officer at the DOH.

The new report compiled by DOH compares routine childhood vaccination rates in Washington from 2021 to averages from 2015-2019.

Vaccination rates have fallen by 3.6% among children ages 11 and 12 and 3.9% for children ages 4 to 6. For children ages 19 to 35 months, the decrease has been larger, falling by 9.6%. There has been a slight increase of 1.8% in immunizations among teenage children.

The DOH urges families to schedule well-child visits early so that their children will be able to attend educational programs when they start and parents won’t have to worry about trying to make an appointment at the last minute.

According to the DOH, Washington will provide all recommended vaccines for free for all children through the age of 18.

The DOH has implemented a series of efforts to increase childhood vaccination rates back up to pre-pandemic levels. The efforts included direct messaging and improvement for vaccine access for Native American tribes.

At the end of the statement, Dr. Kawn-Gett said, “Vaccines are the best tools we have to protect kids from getting sick from preventable diseases.”