- This column is consigned by doctors from St. Jude, ImmunizeTN, Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center:
With a new school year looming, it’s urgent that we get our children caught up on vaccinations—especially adolescent vaccinations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant vaccination gap and lag in preventive services among U.S. children and adolescents.
Since March 2020, many kids have missed wellness visits. As a result, they have missed getting vaccines for such diseases as whooping cough, human papillomavirus, HPV, and meningitis. Adolescent vaccinations have declined 18% nationally compared to previous years, representing millions of missed doses.
The deficits are even greater in Tennessee—and threaten the health of our children, families and communities.
Tennessee’s poorest children are most at risk. Local data shows a steeper decline in vaccinations among children enrolled in TennCare and other government health insurance programs.
The pandemic has intensified inequities among Black, Indigenous and other people of color; those who live in rural areas; sexual minorities; and medically underserved adolescents.
We—a coalition of Tennessee health care providers, public health professionals and community stakeholders—are issuing an urgent call to action to protect Tennessee’s children from vaccine-preventable diseases.
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Health care systems and providers, please:
- Identify patients who have missed routine vaccinations and contact them to schedule appointments.
- Ask parents and guardians about their children’s vaccination status.
- Use every patient visit as a vaccination opportunity.
- Schedule the wellness visit you’ve been putting off for your child or teen. Health care providers across Tennessee are working to provide a safe environment for patients and their families.
- Check in with your family and loved ones to ensure they’re taking care of their health.
Now that a COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for adolescents age 12 and older, routine vaccinations can be given at the same time. There is no time to waste. Catch up on vaccinations and get the COVID-19 vaccination now. It will help your child stay ahead of vaccine-preventable diseases.
During this unprecedented time, when everyone is focused on staying healthy, it is important to remember that immunizations are critical for everyone.
As children go back to school and try to resume a normal schedule, we must protect them. What a tragedy it would be if, on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw an epidemic in preventable childhood diseases.
Vaccines are safe, effective and they save lives.
And they’ll be a critical part in helping us return to normalcy while keeping our children safe—not just from COVID, but from many other diseases.
This column is consigned by doctors from St. Jude, ImmunizeTN, Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center:
Heather Brandt, Ph.D., St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Dorothy Sinard, M.D., pediatrician and president of ImmunizeTN
Jennifer Erves, Ph.D., Meharry Medical College
Debra Friedman, M.D., Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center
Originally Appeared Here