Pandemic fallout: One in 10 Ohio kindergartners aren’t fully vaccinated
A tenth of young children in Ohio didn’t receive their scheduled vaccinations during the COVID pandemic, according to state health officials.
Last year, more children started to get those vaccines for childhood illnesses like measles, polio, pertussis and more.
But experts say more needs to be done to make sure kids are protected from potentially deadly diseases that can be prevented by vaccines.
“Nearly 10% of all Ohio’s kindergartners — and that’s more than 12,000 children — were missing at least one required dose or had no immunization record on file during the past school year," said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, director of the Ohio Department of Health.
Vanderhoff said an outbreak of measles last year happened because too many children weren’tvaccinated. It was harder for families to access medical care during the pandemic, he said, but that shouldn’t be a problem now.
More kids are getting vaccinated now, Vanderhoff said, and local health departments can provide free vaccines.
During the pandemic, some Ohioans questioned the safety of COVID vaccines, despite the fact that most doctors and professional medical associations said they were safe and effective.
The concern was largely along party lines, with Republicans sharing doubts and lawmakers attempting to ban vaccine mandates. Some Republicans have tried to take that further, seeking to ban all mandatory childhood vaccines, which have been used for decades and are credited with saving millions of lives around the world.
Vanderhoff said it’s important for doctors and families to talk about the importance of childhood vaccinations. Douglas Harley, president of the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians, said patients and doctors need to have conversations about disease prevention. It's important for children to get vaccines for childhood illnesses, he said, because the "risk of dying from measles is way higher than your chance of winning Powerball."
A new vaccine has been developed for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is highly contagious and may make it difficult to breathe. Last fall hospitals in Ohio and around the country saw soaring numbers of children with RSV. The RSV shot for infants should be available soon, Vanderhoff said. The CDC has approved an RSV vaccine for older adults, and it’s available now.
Vanderhoff added anyone over 65 with compromised immunity should get a bivalent COVID booster that targets the strains that are now infecting Ohioans.