The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH)
Students’ lack of routine vaccines muddies start of school during difficult year
COLUMBUS >> The vaccinations that U.S. schoolchildren are required to get to hold terrible diseases like polio, measles, tetanus and whooping cough in check are way behind schedule this year, threatening further complications to a school year already marred by COVID-19.
The lag was caused by pandemic-related disruptions last year to routine doctor’s visits, summer and sports camps at which kids usually get their immunizations.
Now, pediatricians and educators are scrambling to ensure that backlogs don’t keep kids from school or leave them vulnerable to contagious diseases.
“It’s a big deal,” said Richard Long, executive director of the Learning First Alliance, a partnership of education organizations that has mounted a public outreach campaign. “We’re going to have kids getting seriously sick this fall, and the sad part is, for the most part, it’s preventable.”
The number of non-flu vaccines ordered and administered through the federal Vaccines for Children program, which covers about half of Americans under 18 and serves as a barometer of national trends, plummeted after former President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in March 2020, a review by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed.
A subsequent review of 10 jurisdictions, released in June, showed that, despite administered doses again approaching pre-pandemic levels last fall, they “did not increase to the level that would have been necessary to catch up children who did not receive routine vaccinations on time.”
A full reckoning for schools is still weeks off, when grace periods that allow unvaccinated children to temporarily attend school begin to lapse around the country.
But the latest COVID-19 surge linked to the delta variant has added new hurdles — including swamped doctor’s offices and clinics, and even potential shortages of medicine vials, syringes and needles — to the swirl of confusion and fatigue already facing those working to tackle the backlog, health and pharmaceutical experts said.