In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, pediatricians sounded the alarm as up to 80 percent of children were missing routine well-child visits where they receive important developmental screenings and vaccinations. While current vaccination rates are, fortunately, increasing, they have yet to reach a level that makes up for the large dip over the spring and summer months.
The pandemic has continued to impact our regular routines—including this year’s “Back to School” season which is often a popular time to make sure our children’s vaccines are up to date. Despite these disruptions, it is critical children continue to receive the vaccines they need to prevent further health concerns while continuing to adhere to guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Lower vaccination rates increase the risk of transmission of dangerous vaccine-preventable illnesses like measles and mumps—and increased outbreaks can harm children’s short- and long-term health, school attendance, and learning.
Similarly, as we approach flu season, it is essential we ensure our children get their flu shots this year. Children have the highest rates of flu infection and flu shots help reduce the risk of the flu among children, reduce the severity of flu symptoms, and reduce the risk of transmission to vulnerable groups, including their teachers and caregivers. This can help keep families healthy and also preserve the capacity of the health care infrastructure as hospitals and health care providers continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC recommends adults and children over the age of six months receive their flu shot before the end of October.
Vaccines are one of the greatest successes in public health. Between 1994 and 2016, childhood immunizations prevented an estimated 281 million child illnesses and 855,000 child deaths, and saved nearly $1.65 trillion in health care costs. Flu shots and other vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary now more than ever to keep our children and families healthy and keep our healthcare infrastructure from being overwhelmed.
Read more about why vaccines are so important and what federal and state policymakers can do to increase child vaccination rates in our brief: Vaccines, Preventable Disease, and Children’s Health and find where you and your family can get a free flu shot with or without insurance here.