SAN ANTONIO – Measles, rubella, pertussis, mumps -- decades ago, these childhood diseases would strike fear because of their long-term scarring and the potential for death. While school-required vaccination efforts all but wiped out those diseases in the United States, today, we are seeing a resurgence, and doctors say the timing could not be worse.
The anti-vaccine movements, combined with COVID-19 social distancing rules, have created a renewed vaccination need and a backlog. It’s believed other factors are playing into this as well, including unemployment causing financial woes and the fear of contracting coronavirus at a health care facility.
Dr. Rob Sanders, a pediatrician and the associate medical director for PediExpress: Pediatric Urgent Care Clinic that is part of University Health System, said vaccinations are running about 50% behind. That means half of the children in the area are not up to date, and with school expected to resume this fall, doctors are reaching out to parents.
“We vaccinate against diseases that historically have really hurt, if not unfortunately killed, a lot of people and a lot of children,” Sanders said. He also noted that some diseases, like mumps, can cause lifelong issues.
A large part of the reduction in vaccinations this spring and summer is due to the state and county not being able to host mass immunization clinics that have become customary before the beginning of the school year. That causes worry that childhood diseases could find a foothold again among children once they begin to mingle in classrooms and playgrounds.
Sanders said the timing for these types of illnesses couldn’t be worse, particularly with diseases like whooping cough and seasonal flu, since existing hospital space and breathing treatments are already at stressed levels.
“Vaccinating is absolutely one of those things that we can do to really help keep kids and families out of the hospital at this time,” Sanders said.
It’s important to note that even if you don’t have health insurance, you can get free vaccines through the state, but you must request an appointment at the pediatrician’s office. Once a parent has made the request, most clinics, like PediExpress, will create a safety plan to get your child vaccinated with precautions in place to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.
Parents can preregister online, wait in the car for their appointment and immediately be taken to their room.
“Of course, our staff will be wearing the appropriate protective equipment while they’re working, and they will have very limited interaction with anybody else other than their family and the staff,” Sanders said.
Sanders’ advice for parents who may have become accustomed to group immunization clinics is instead to use their child’s birthday as a reminder to get their vaccinations checked.
To find out which vaccinations are required in Texas, click here.
A schedule of immunizations is available by clicking here.
To view the annual reports of immunizations for recent years, click here.