The Associated Press
SEATTLE — Fewer children are getting scheduled vaccinations for diseases such as measles in Washington state since March, when it became clear the novel coronavirus was spreading across the globe.
The number of children 18 and younger being vaccinated in Washington dropped by 31% in August compared to the August average from 2015 to 2019, The Seattle Times reported. The decline began in February then fell sharply in March with a 33% drop compared to the March average from 2015 to 2019 and bottomed out with a 39% drop in April.
Health experts are concerned that the reduction in the number of children being vaccinated increases the risk of outbreaks of diseases that are preventable with vaccinations.
“Adding more outbreaks on top of COVID-19 not only would put more people’s health at risk, it also could overload the health care system,” said Danielle Koeing, the health promotion supervisor with the state Department of Health.
The danger of not vaccinating was seen last year during a measles outbreak in Southwest Washington.
Seventy people were infected in the outbreak, where only 85% of kindergartners had received the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. Most of those cases were in children with 93% of infections occurring between the ages of 1 and 18.
In 2000, measles had been declared eradicated in the United States.
Childhood vaccines are highly effective and safe, and parents need to keep their children on track with immunizations, said Dr. Beth Ebel, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
“Missing those doses, unless you make them up, your child has not gotten the training for her immune system that you need to be able to fight infection,” Ebel said.