COVID-19: As the national emergency was recognized, child immunizations plummeted

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With COVID-19 spreading across all 50 states, public health systems facing unprecedented challenges and stay-at-home guidelines becoming orders, the chaos caused by the novel coronavirus by late March included steep drops in uptake of, and access to a spectrum of critical medical services.

That has included administration of routine pediatric immunizations critical to protecting children as well as public health, according to data analysis released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday.

While the agency posted guidance on March 24 reiterating the critical role of recommended vaccinations, that day marked a drop from 100,000 fewer orders than during the same period the year before for non-influenza vaccines from a government program providing about half of all vaccines across the country   —  to about 400,000 fewer by the third week of April. Orders for measles-containing vaccines, down by about 200,00 fewer than the year before also continued a downslide to that dropped below 400,000 fewer orders during those weeks, the analysis shows.

The consequences of decreased childhood immunizations reflected in those numbers could begin to appear during a period already fraught with anxiety, the authors of the report on the data note, as physical distancing measures begin to ease, and more children are exposed to diseases that include measles, as well as COVID-19.

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