Washington officials report drop in childhood vaccinations

SEATTLE -- The Washington State Department of Health has observed a significant drop in the number of children being vaccinated over the past two months.

State health experts say children still need vaccines on time, even during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, The Seattle Times reported Tuesday.

About 30% fewer children were vaccinated in March and about 40% fewer in April compared to the average number of childhood vaccinations administered during those months between 2015 and 2019, the health department said.

Officials are concerned infants and other children will not be properly protected against diseases such as measles and pertussis, also known as whopping cough, state Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy said.

“Decreasing vaccinations increases the risk that we could see an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease,” Lofy said.

Dr. John Dunn, Kaiser Permanente Washington’s director of preventive care, said people do not normally experience the effects of diphtheria or measles because they received vaccines years ago.

Not having seen the diseases firsthand is no reason for parents to think the vaccinations can be skipped during a health crisis like the new coronavirus, Dunn said.

The most recent example in Washington state was a measles outbreak that sickened more than 70 people last year in Clark County, where only 85% of kindergartners had received the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

Nearly all the county’s cases were in children and people who were not immunized, with 93% of the cases involving patients between the ages of 1 and 18.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.