Young girl getting a vaccine

Novel coronavirus has taken over our lives in many ways, and amid all the stress, it can be difficult for parents to keep child vaccines up to date.

COVID-19, the disease that novel coronavirus causes, has taken a toll on families. Although children often have less severe illness, they can get infected with coronavirus. Plus, staying home with kids in this pandemic is not easy.

However, it's important to recognize the even greater threat to the health of our children: outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Routine childhood vaccination is the most important protection we can give our children against infections.

Yet, in Maryland and across the country, there has been a significant drop in vaccination rates during the pandemic. Maryland's pre-kindergarten immunization rates have fallen by an astounding 76 percent.

Importance of Child Vaccines During the Pandemic

In the United States, children rarely fall ill with potentially deadly infectious diseases because they are protected by vaccines. If we stop vaccinating or reduce our vaccination rates, these diseases will return.

Putting off childhood vaccination due to coronavirus fears could bring rise to epidemics of these old diseases during the novel coronavirus pandemic. This could give rise to what's called a syndemic, when two or more diseases circulate within a population of people at one time.

This could put significant strain on our country's healthcare system and result in devastating public health outcomes.

As the state re-opens, diseases that were once kept at bay by vaccines could flourish without up-to-date vaccinations.

Under-Vaccination During the Pandemic

In Maryland alone, there has been a 32 percent reduction in all vaccines given to children from birth to 11 months of age and a 47 percent decline in 12 to 23-month-old toddlers.

As of May 2020, MMR vaccines, which protect against measles, mumps and rubella, have decreased 71 percent. In March and April of 2020, 15,950 fewer children in Maryland received an MMR vaccine when compared to March and April 2019.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), under-vaccination is a problem nationwide and puts us at risk of the rise of a syndemic.

Routine Child Vaccines

Routine childhood vaccines keep children safe from a number of potentially deadly infectious diseases. These are only some of the serious illnesses that are preventable through routine childhood vaccinations:

  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Congenital rubella syndrome
  • Chickenpox
  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Whooping cough
  • Rotavirus diarrhea
  • Hepatitis (A and B)
  • Polio
  • Bacterial meningitis

The State of Maryland often requires the following vaccines to achieve complete immunization status to enter public schools:

  • Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP)
  • Polio (IPV)
  • Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)
  • Varicella (chicken pox)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Meningococcal vaccine
  • Pneumococcal vaccine
  • Haemophilus influenzae, type B vaccine (HIB)

Routine vaccinations aren't just important for young children. Children in middle and high school may also require booster shots that maintain the effectiveness of their original vaccines.

Getting Vaccines Safely During the Pandemic

Staying at home when possible is an important part of containing coronavirus spread. You might feel that the only health care you should seek out at this time is emergency care. While not delaying emergency care is vital, childhood vaccines are also essential medical care. Now more than ever, it is important to keep your children healthy.

University of Maryland Medical System pediatric offices are open, safe and eager to care for the children who need it. Call your pediatrician if you are not sure if your child is due for vaccinations.

Agencies that have provided guidance for pediatricians to continue delivering vaccination services safely during the novel coronavirus pandemic include the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the Maryland Department of Health (MDH).