Pandemic caused childhood immunization rates to fall in 2020, according to study in JAMA Pediatrics
The study, led by HealthPartners Institute, suggests there’s a growing need to focus on getting kids up to date on immunizations
Bloomington, Minn. — Disruptions to care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a decline in childhood immunization rates nationally during 2020 compared to the previous year, according to a new JAMA Pediatrics study led by HealthPartners Institute.
While the immunization rates did rebound some by year’s end, fewer children were up to date on their routine vaccines in September 2020 than in September 2019.
“This is a troubling ripple effect. The pandemic’s disruption to health care impacted routine pediatric visits including providing recommended immunizations,” said Malini DeSilva, MD, investigator at HealthPartners Institute and first author on the study. “Unfortunately, for most of the age groups we evaluated, immunization coverage did not recover to pre-pandemic levels, which leaves children vulnerable to dangerous infectious diseases. It’s likely that rates are still lagging today.”
The researchers analyzed data from approximately 1.4 million patients from eight large U.S. health care systems who sought care between January and October of 2020. They categorized the patient data by age groups to understand how immunization rates changed for different ages. Then, they compared these data to similarly arranged data from 2019.
The declines in vaccinations were most pronounced during March through May of 2020, especially among children less than 6 years. In addition to evaluating the number of vaccines administered, the research team also looked at whether certain age groups were up to date for routine vaccines in February, May, and September 2020. Only 74 percent of infants turning 7 months in September 2020 were up to date, compared with 81 percent of infants turning 7 months in September 2019. Similarly only 57 percent of infants turning 18 months in September 2020 were up to date compared to 61 percent in September 2019.
For most ages and across all periods the proportion of children up to date on immunizations was lowest in Black children. While disparities existed before the pandemic, they may have become more pronounced for 18-month-olds during the pandemic.
The patient data came from HealthPartners and the other seven large health systems that make up the Vaccine Safety Datalink, a CDC-funded network that does post-marketing surveillance on vaccines and other vaccine-related research.
About HealthPartners Institute
HealthPartners Institute is part of HealthPartners, the largest consumer-governed, non-profit health care organization in the nation with a mission to improve health and well-being in partnership with members, patients and the community. HealthPartners Institute supports this mission through research, education and practice. The Institute annually conducts 400+ research studies and trains 700+ medical residents and fellows and 1,200+ medical and advanced practice students. Its integration with HealthPartners’ hospitals, clinics and health plan strengthens the Institute’s ability to discover and develop evidence-based solutions and translate them into practice. Based in Minneapolis, the Institute’s work impacts care, health and well-being across the region and nation as well as internationally. Visit healthpartnersinstitute.org for more information.