Measles vaccinations plummet during COVID-19 outbreak, according to new CDC report
HealthPartners researchers, who co-authored report, encourage parents to prioritize well-child visits so children receive vaccines on time
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Vaccinations for measles have dropped significantly since January, according to the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and supported by HealthPartners Institute.
The report also notes a steep decline in purchase orders for routine vaccines used to protect publicly insured and uninsured children, along with other groups.
“Stay-at-home orders have helped communities slow the spread of COVID-19 and care for infected patients more effectively. But, we can’t forget about other contagious diseases for which we already have vaccines,” said Malini DeSilva, MD, MPH, co-author of the study and investigator at HealthPartners Institute. “We need to make sure our nation’s children continue to receive routine vaccinations to decrease the risk of future outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles.”
The report is based on data from the Vaccine for Children (VFC) program provider order data from the CDC’s Vaccine Tracking System (VTrckS). The VFC is a national program that provides federally purchased vaccines to approximately 50 percent of U.S. children aged 0–18 years. From Jan. 6 to April 19, 2020 VFC orders for all routinely administered pediatric vaccines and specifically measles vaccines decreased markedly compared to the same time last year.
The report also includes data from the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD), a collaboration between the CDC and eight health care systems from around the United States, including HealthPartners. The health system data is consistent with VFC data, showing a substantial decline in vaccinations against measles among young patients starting in March 2020 after the declaration of national emergency for COVID-19. The decline was smaller among children ages 0-2 years.
In-Person Clinic Visits Are Safe, Necessary
Since the beginning of the pandemic, HealthPartners has been seeing children 2 years old and under for in-person well-child visits and vaccines. This past week, HealthPartners has expanded in-person well-child visits to include 4 and 5 year-olds, 11 and 12 year-olds, and 16 year-olds, which further aligns with recommended vaccination schedules. The health system is also reaching out to parents of patients and members via phone calls, texts and online messages with reminders about needed vaccines.
Like many health systems, HealthPartners has implemented measures to ensure clinics are safe when kids arrive for in-person care. It has designated specific respiratory clinics where potential COVID-19 patients are treated. This reduces the risk of exposure for patients who have appointments at non-respiratory clinics. In addition, it has revised check-in processes so that people no longer wait for appointments in a waiting room, and implemented stringent cleaning protocols.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty right now, and people are understandably hesitant about bringing their kids to a clinic,” said Andrea Singh, chair of pediatrics at Park Nicollet. “But, we’ve taken steps to ensure our clinics are as safe as possible so that kids can come and get their vaccines. Vaccines are life-saving and critical for the long term health of our youngest patients.”
To schedule a well-child visit vaccination, visit www.healthpartners.com/care/appointments
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.