COVID-19 shot hesitancy complicates routine vaccination efforts

Growing levels of vaccine hesitancy may be complicating efforts to catch children up on routine vaccinations, health experts told Politico April 18.

Many children skipped checkups early in the pandemic and fell behind on routine vaccinations for measles, chickenpox and meningitis, among other diseases. Politico spoke with public health experts, pediatricians, school nurses, state officials and immunization advocates in 10 states who expressed concerns that COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is spilling over to other childhood immunizations, making it more difficult to complete school vaccination drives and other efforts to work through this backlog.

In some states, religious vaccine exemptions are also increasing. For example, North Dakota has seen religious, moral and philosophical exemption requests jump from 3.6 percent during the 2019-20 school year to 4.46 percent this school year.  

"In my years with immunizations, I have seen people who have always been concerned," Heather Gagliano, MSN, RN, operations and education director for the Idaho Immunization Coalition, told Politico. "But it was really very few. I am concerned that it is becoming much more mainstream in that conversation where dis- and misinformation somehow is being accepted as the truth more so than it has before."

Public health officials have warned that preventable — and potentially fatal — childhood diseases could become more common if the nation doesn't increase immunization rates.

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