Infant immunizations safe and important

Published 7:43 pm Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Here’s hoping that the politically fueled controversy over COVID-19 vaccinations doesn’t cause a decline in time-tested childhood immunizations, which have been critically important in stamping out or severely curtailing several major preventable diseases in the past half-century.

The good folks at ImmunizeVa, a statewide coalition of medical and public health professionals and community stakeholders, sent us a timely reminder that April 25-29 is National Infant Immunization Week, an opportunity to remind caregivers about the importance of protecting children ages 2 and younger from vaccine-preventable diseases.

The reality is that babies depend on their parents and guardians to make critical decisions to keep them safe.

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ImmunizeVA, the Institute for Public Health Innovation, the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Minus 9 to 5, an initiative of Eastern Virginia Medical School, are working to encourage Virginians to maintain the recommended youth vaccine schedule. Children should get vaccinated during their next doctor’s visit or at their local Virginia Department of Health office, the coalition says.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many disruptions in families’ lives. In some cases, it has meant that children have missed or delayed their wellness checkups and critical vaccines,” said Dr. Michael Martin, president of the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Vaccines are critical to ensuring children stay healthy.”

The 2021 Virginia Annual Immunization Survey saw a significant decrease in kindergarten entry vaccination rates, according to ImmunizeVA. From 2019 to 2020, the percentage of immunizations required for school entry decreased from 84.8% to 80.4%, VDH reports. According to the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, if vaccination rates decline below levels required to maintain herd immunity, which protects vulnerable members of society who are too old or too sick to get vaccinated, dangerous outbreaks of preventable diseases could follow.

During a time when many once-trusted institutions such as health care face over-the-top skepticism, we urge parents to listen to public health professionals.