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Childhood Immunization Rates Fall Amidst Pandemic Fears

Posted October 9, 2020

After the pandemic declaration in March, office visits for immunizations among Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) members significantly dropped between March and May 2020, compared with the number of visits reported by claims data during the same period in 2019.

Parents nationwide have cancelled pediatric check-ups, and immunization levels for vaccine-preventable diseases have plummeted, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Well-child office visits have decreased 50%,1  and doses distributed2  through the federally funded Vaccines for Children program have dropped significantly. The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have reported3   a decline in the number of children receiving life-saving vaccines around the world.

“Vaccines are one of the most powerful tools in the history of public health, and more children are now being immunized than ever before,” says Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general. “But the pandemic has put those gains at risk. The avoidable suffering and death caused by children missing out on routine immunizations could be far greater than COVID-19 itself.”4

What BCBSIL is Doing
Recognizing the urgency, BCBSIL teams are using tools and pilot programs to help identify opportunities to increase member immunization rates. We are mapping vaccination rates geographically, mobilizing our Care Vans to offer vaccination clinics where they are needed most and reaching out to members who have missed or delayed vaccines for their children. But we can’t do it alone.

How You Can Help
As a trusted health care professional, you play a vital role in educating parents about the importance of vaccination.

  • Ensure your patients are up-to-date on all vaccinations.
  • Encourage parents with children under 2 years old to make appointments to vaccinate their children.
  • Share your pandemic safety protocol to ease patients’ concerns and increase their comfort in visiting your office.
  • Discuss options for vaccinations with your patients.
  • Share educational resources with parents, such as materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)5  that give solid evidence for the efficacy and safety of vaccines.

Also, while August was National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM), we encourage you to refer to the NIAM tools and resources on the CDC website6  as this information may be helpful to you and your patients year-round.

The above material is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician. Physicians and other health care providers are encouraged to use their own best medical judgment based upon all available information and the condition of the patient in determining the best course of treatment. References to third party sources or organizations are not a representation, warranty or endorsement of such organizations. Any questions regarding those organizations should be addressed to them directly. The fact that a service or treatment is described in this material is not a guarantee that the service or treatment is a covered benefit and members should refer to their certificate of coverage for more details, including benefits, limitations and exclusions. Regardless of benefits, the final decision about any service or treatment is between the member and their health care provider.

1National Foundation for Infectious Diseases; #COVID-19 and Routine Vaccinations: What Parents Need To Know, April 28, 2020; https://www.nfid.org/2020/04/28/covid-19-and-routine-vaccinations-what-parents-need-to-know/

2CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 15, 2020; Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Routine Pediatric Vaccine Ordering and Administration – United States, 2020; https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6919e2.htm

3,4WHO; WHO and UNICEF warn of a decline in vaccinations during COVID-19, July 15, 2020; https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/15-07-2020-who-and-unicef-warn-of-a-decline-in-vaccinations-during-covid-19

5CDC; National Immunization Awareness Month, Educational Resources for Parents and Patients; https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niam/parents/educational-resources.html