Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska is reporting that Nebraska children are missing vaccinations during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, something they say raises the risk of preventable disease outbreaks.
BCBSNE compared childhood immunization rates for members from January through September 2019 with the rates from January through September 2020, and found vaccinations decreased as follows:
- 10.6% decrease for MMR, protecting against measles, mumps and rubella
- 4.15% decrease for DTaP, protecting against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough
- 2.43% decrease for polio, protecting against poliomyelitis
BCBSNE says their findings align with a recently published Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Health of America study that estimates children across the U.S. will miss 9 million doses of these critical vaccinations by the end of 2020. The study, which also compared data from January through September of 2019 to 2020, indicates that vaccinations were down 26% for MMR, 26% for DTaP and 16% for polio nationwide.
While the vaccination rates in Nebraska are better than those found in the national study, BCBSNE says the decline is still concerning. They say fewer people vaccinated, the greater the risk of a community losing herd immunity, which occurs when a large portion of a population is immune to a contagious disease, making it difficult for the disease to spread.
Dr. Jane Carnazzo, Children’s Physicians pediatrician, has experience treating children with diseases (like meningitis), which are now preventable with vaccinations. “Anyone who has practiced as long as I have will tell you how scary it is,” Carnazzo said. “Today I so rarely see that because of those very valuable vaccines that children get now in infancy.”
In the national BCBSA study, 40% of parents reported the pandemic as the reason their child missed vaccinations. Dr. Carnazzo explained that this shouldn’t deter families from well-child visits, pointing out that family clinics have safety measures in place, including completing temperature checks and requiring masks, to protect the health of staff and patients.