CLEVELAND — For eight months COVID-19 vaccines have topped headlines globally, but this month doctors across the country are reminding people how important all vaccines are as part of National Immunization Awareness Month - especially childhood shots.
Data shows, though, across the board childhood vaccinations are down. This is partly due to the pandemic and families spending more time at home, so health professionals are calling on parents to make sure their child is up to date.
Especially as the start of a new school year is now just weeks, and for some days, away.
“These are diseases that can lead to disability or death," said. Dr. Christine Alexander, the chair of family medicine at MetroHealth.
But as important as these shots are — families are behind.
“Now I think we are at the point again of people who are left are really questioning vaccines," Dr. Alexander said.
Recent data from the CDC revealed doses given of the MMR vaccine fell about 60% in kids ages 2 to 8 from June to September last year, compared to the previous year. And doses given of the HPV vaccine in teens ages 13 to 17 fell by nearly 70%.
Health departments, like Cuyahoga County, are seeing the same trend.
“Compared to 2019 we’re probably somewhere in the 30 percentile range of our pre-pandemic numbers," said Kevin Brennan, the communications officer for the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.
“I think we really have to remember vaccines are meant to save lives," said Alexander.
Alexander said this month many kids are getting their annual physicals and this can lead to communication about vaccines.
“That gives you child a chance to develop a relationship with a doctor so they understand how to take care of themselves in the long run," she said. “Having the opportunity to say we’re going to talk about these vaccines today but let’s also talk about the COVID vaccine and what might be your concerns around that.”
No matter the immunization, if you’re hesitant, talk to your doctor and ask questions.
“Come in. Please don’t just sit at home and don’t look things up on the computer," she said. "Don’t listen to the hearsay of others, come and talk to us directly. It is a very individualized decision.”
If your child needs to get up to date with their shots and cost is a concern. Contact your local health department. Many offer assistance to cover the cost of vaccines.