Childhood Vaccination Rates Are Down Amid Pandemic, Health Experts Say

Thursday, July 8th 2021, 5:19 pm

Most kids used their kitchens as classrooms last year. Because of it, many parents opted out of regular back to school requirements like annual vaccines.

The Oklahoma City-County Health Department said parents should get their children's back to school shots sooner than later. 

The number of kids who got back to school shots took a sharp drop in 2020. 

Across the U.S., 14% of parents skipped the annual immunizations and 13% of Oklahoma parents did the same. That number jumped to 20% in the state for teen vaccine rates. 

Health experts point to the pandemic for the decline.

"A lot of the kids were doing virtual school. They weren't in the school setting, so they didn't have to have those shot records," said OCCHD's Public Health Nurse Ariel Whitehorn.

The pandemic ate up a lot of OCCHD's resources and forced mobile vaccination units to stop service, too.

"(We would) go to the locations, the daycares, the schools, those kinds of places, and we give vaccines there, but that also had to decrease because we didn't have the staff," Whitehorn said.

The OCCHD is stocked with the necessary shots at all three clinics, with the north one completely dedicated to back-to-school vaccines. 

OCCHD said appointments can be made three days out, and many insurances are accepted. The health department said they'll work with people who don't have insurance on ways to make the vaccinations affordable.

"We go ahead and recommend all age-appropriate vaccinations whenever they come in," said Whitehorn.

That includes COVID vaccines as well, but parents can opt-out of any non-required shot. Children who skipped last year's shots will just pick up where they left off in their vaccine schedule.

"So, if they got most of their series and then weren't able to get that last dose or two because of the pandemic, it's more than fine for them to wait until this season and finish up that round," explained Whitehorn. "You still have contact with kids. It's still important to get that immunity."

People over 18 years of age can also get any back-to-school shots they missed, too. OCCHD said it's a good idea to get any missed shots, especially if the next school year will be spent in dorms.