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Could COVID-19 indirectly lead to outbreaks of measles, mumps, and whooping cough?

One of the scariest side effects of COVID-19 is a possible indirect outbreak of measles, mumps, and whooping cough. Afraid to go to the doctor unnecessarily during the COVID-19 outbreak, children aren’t getting vaccinations which are normally part of an annual physical. 

There isn’t a true database that experts can consult, but anecdotal evidence indicates that children are skipping on immunizations due to fears of contracting COVID-19 while at the doctor’s office. PCC, a pediatric electronic health records company, surveyed 1,000 pediatricians across the country to gather data on vaccination rates. PCC found that, from the week of Feb. 16 to the week of April 5, vaccinations for measles, mumps, and rubella decreased by 50%; vaccinations for diphtheria and whooping cough decreased by 42; and vaccinations for HPV decreased by 73%.

Additionally, the Vaccines for Children program, run by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, reported steep drops in vaccinations. In Massachusetts, vaccination rates were down 68% in the first two weeks of April compared to the previous year. 

“It is a huge concern for me as a pediatrician … If we are not smart now about making sure that kids stay on schedule in terms of getting their immunization, we may be inadvertently creating another public health problem just as we’re trying to manage this one,” Dr. Christina Johns told Today. “That would be seeing vaccine-preventable diseases in one year or two years down the road if we have a whole cohort of children who are delayed on their immunization schedule.”

The CDC has been recommending pediatricians follow regular vaccination schedules despite the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Sources: New York Times, PCC, CDC, Today


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