Vaccinations fall; CDC warns of possible measles outbreak

Routine vaccinations for young children in the U.S. dropped after a national emergency was declared March 13 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially exposing vulnerable individuals to measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases, according to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published May 18. 

Researchers analyzed immunization data for children 1 to 24 months old in Michigan, where a stay-at-home order was issued March 23, and compared it to data from 2016 through 2019. The analysis found that all vaccinations dropped, except for hepatitis B, which is typically given at birth.

Recommended vaccinations for 5 month-olds fell from about two-thirds of children from 2016 through 2019 to fewer than half at a point of time in May 2020, the report found.

The drop in vaccination coverage may leave young children and communities vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases. If 90 percent to 95 percent of the population is not vaccinated against measles, outbreaks can occur, the CDC warned.

More than 117 million children in 37 countries may miss out on receiving measles vaccines amid the pandemic, with measles immunization campaigns delayed in at least 24 countries, according to an April 14 release by Measles and Rubella Initiative, a global partnership aimed at ensuring no child dies from measles or rubella.

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