The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week that routine administration of pediatric vaccines sharply decreased following the initiation of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders. To improve our capacity to care for persons infected with the novel coronavirus and to decrease its spread, significant changes were made to physician practices. Routine and nonemergency office visits were delayed. Unfortunately, this meant that many children who were due to be given vaccines did not receive them.

We face a very serious health crisis due to COVID-19. However, if many children remain unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated, we’re at risk for another serious health crisis — the reemergence of vaccine-preventable diseases that are now under control. It only takes a small percentage of unvaccinated children to sustain an outbreak of measles or pertussis — two very serious diseases — as well as allow the return of bacterial meningitis, which has a high mortality rate in young children and adolescents. Recent outbreaks of measles amongst unimmunized children and adults are evidence of how quickly this can occur. Falling rates could jeopardize the herd immunity that communities have built up against a disease like measles. Public health officials estimate that a community vaccination rate of 93%-95% is necessary to prevent a widespread outbreak of a disease like measles.

The CDC, Louisiana Department of Health and Louisiana chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics have emphasized the importance of routine well childcare and immunizations during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for children younger than two years old. Although the CDC found that the decrease in immunizations was less for children younger than two years, there was a significant decrease in vaccinations across all age groups. Now that stay-at-home orders are being rescinded, parents and providers need to work together to correct any delay in vaccinations as soon as possible. Medical practices have made significant changes to limit contact between healthy children being seen for routine care and vaccination, and ill children. These changes may include separate areas of the office for sick and well childcare or separate times of the day for evaluation of sick and well children.

It’s important to remember that vaccines are one of the most successful public health measures in medical science. Our children are healthier now than at any time in human history because of vaccines. They are highly effective and have a significant record of safety.

As stay-at-home restrictions are lifted and physician office schedules are becoming more normal, we need to make a strong effort to continue to protect our children by bringing their vaccines up to date. Please make it a priority to get them caught up.

JOHN A. VANCHIERE

JOSEPH A. BOCCHINI Jr.

physicians, Louisiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics

Baton Rouge