Essentia Health urging childhood vaccinations amidst pandemic caused decline

(Fargo, ND)--Essentia Health pediatricians are encouraging parents to seek recommended vaccines for their children as childhood immunization rates have dropped precipitously during the COVID-19 pandemic. They say a significant number of youngsters have fallen behind schedule and aren’t receiving sufficient protection against preventable diseases such as influenza and measles.

Many people have opted to avoid hospitals and clinics the past two years, leading to a decline in preventive care. That includes well-child visits during which routine vaccinations are administered. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a 14% drop in “public sector vaccine ordering” among children in 2020-21 vs. 2019, and a 20% drop in measles vaccine ordering.

In North Dakota, administration of nearly every vaccine recommended for infants decreased from late 2019 to late 2021. Immunization rates among adolescents also have fallen. In Minnesota, 33.5% of 2-year-olds were not up to date on their vaccination series in 2021, compared to 25% in 2020 and 20.7% in 2019.

These lags could have long-term impacts on children’s health and, by extension, the health of our communities. This is especially true as more children return to in-person learning and other activities.

“I think one of the biggest takeaways from the pandemic is that it demonstrates what a global society we live in,” said Rachel Faleide, a nurse practitioner specializing in family medicine at Essentia. “Fortunately, we live in a society free of many of the dangerous and deadly diseases of the past, thanks in large part to vaccines. The reality is that without vaccines, these diseases that were considered to be eradicated can and will make a comeback. We have seen evidence of this in recent years with cases of measles. As a nurse practitioner, I urge my patients to stay current on their vaccines to keep themselves, their families and the community healthy.”

Vaccine schedules as recommended by organizations such as the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians cover about 14 different diseases. This graphic shows recommended immunizations for newborns through age 6. According to the CDC, among children born from 1994 to 2018, “vaccinations will prevent an estimated 936,000 early deaths, eight million hospitalizations and 419 million illnesses.”

Officials urge you to contact your primary care provider to check your child’s immunization status. You also can visit the North Dakota Department of Health’s Immunization Record Request or the Minnesota Department of Health’s Immunization Information Connection.