COVID-19 lockdowns impact vaccination rates in children

New Jersey doctors describe another looming health crisis resulting from the pandemic — fewer children are getting routine vaccinations.

Hackensack Pediatrician Alejandro Flores says he’s seen a 70% drop in patients since March, and a large part is a dramatic reduction in child vaccinations.

“People are scared to come out,” he said. “We are seeing a lot less children overall. We’re seeing a lot less physicals that require vaccines. We use to see maybe 10 physicals a day with vaccines. Now we are seeing three, maybe.”

Dr. Hanan Tanuos is the director of Pediatric Care at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. She says public health is at risk if fewer children are receiving vaccinations.

“There has to be a percentage, depending on the disease, of vaccinated individuals to protect those that are not vaccinated. If that percentage drops, it leaves us all open to the illness itself,” Tanuos said.

But could there be a financial consequence for children who fall behind on their vaccinations?

“If a parent spaces out the vaccines too much, they may require an additional dose to be effective. Are insurance companies going to pay for that vaccine,” he said.

Sue Collins is the co-founder of New Jersey Coalition for Vaccination Choice. Collins says it’s important that there isn’t a one-size fits all requirement for children who may have missed doses of vaccines.

“As we are going back to the doctors and things are opening up, are they expected to get, instead of one or two doses of vaccines, now it’s five and six,” she said. “Maybe we don’t need all these vaccines on the schedule we find. Maybe its OK to wait, maybe it’s OK to refuse some and not be forced to choose between a vaccine or school.”

When it comes to a COVID-19 vaccine, don’t expect one soon. Both Flores and Tanuos say there needs to be extensive research before one is approved, especially for children.