Stop disease comeback stories with vaccinations
While Americans typically love a good comeback story, there’s one taking place today that poses a growing – and preventable – threat to our communities and children: Childhood diseases are making a comeback as a result of a continued decline in childhood vaccination rates.
During the COVID-19 pandemic the term “herd immunity” was introduced to some people for the first time. Well, this current resurgence of vaccine-preventable infections is due to a loss of herd immunity.
A community in our neighboring state, Columbus, Ohio, is seeing how this comeback works. The Hill reported in January that Columbus has seen 85 cases of measles in the last couple of months, with 34 of them resulting in hospitalization. The story behind the story? As The New York Times reported in December, all of the cases involve children who are not fully vaccinated. Zero cases were reported among children who are up to date on their vaccines.
That last point underscores the fact that vaccines work. That’s why I’m calling on parents, grandparents and others who care for children to protect Indiana’s kids by making sure they’re caught up on vaccines.
The time for action is now. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced recently that vaccination rates for school-aged children fell to about 93% last year, down from just below 94% the previous year. Until the last few years, the rate hovered at about 95%.
While a couple of percentage points might not seem like a big deal, it is, for a couple of reasons. First, those percentage points equate to thousands of children. And, second, we’re dipping below the percentage of vaccinations that prevent outbreaks of diseases. With measles, if the percentage of people who are vaccinated goes below 95%, we can expect to see more cases.
Why are we seeing a decline in vaccines? There are a number of reasons, but the most obvious – and most addressable – is that the routine process of vaccinating against childhood diseases was disrupted by the COVID pandemic.
That’s why, over the past 18 months, MDwise has partnered with local groups to host more than 13 events in communities throughout the state to offer opportunities to get kids up to date on vaccinations they missed during the pandemic.
During the 20th century, vaccines helped to virtually eliminate diseases that once devastated our communities. Now we’re seeing some of those diseases make a comeback because we’re letting our vaccination rates drop.
Let’s get back on track. If you are a parent or guardian, make sure your children are up to date on vaccinations. Make an appointment with your child’s provider, check with your community health clinic, or take advantage of opportunities like MDwise Back on Track events to get the children you care for up to speed on vaccinations. In most cases your child can be “caught-up” with all of these important vaccines in just one or two visits to your provider.
In doing so, you’ll not only help that child stay healthy, but you’ll also help to prevent disease outbreaks in your community. And that’s how we’ll all stop a comeback story nobody wants to see.