WASHINGTON, DC – May 16, 2023 – Researchers at the Pew Research Center wanted to know whether COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy would carry over to the rates of childhood immunizations. Their study compared vaccination beliefs before and after the COVID pandemic. They concluded that there is a growing movement of political and religious polarization and a populist belief that prioritizes parent’s rights over expert recommendations, state mandates, and the safety of other children. Vaccine hesitancy doubled for Republicans and white evangelical Protestants (from 20% to 40%) supporting parental rights to forego the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine for their school age children. These groups were more likely to be against vaccination before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CDC reported that the national vaccination rate for state-required vaccines among kindergarten students had fallen from 95% during the pre-pandemic 2019-20 school year to 93% during the 2021-22 school year in spite of a return to in-person learning. The CDC also found that the vaccination rates were high among most children, but there were lower rates in children from low resource families and those that live in rural areas. Schools usually require all students to have childhood vaccinations, although some exemptions are allowed. However, some schools relaxed their policies during the pandemic.
Many childhood diseases had almost been virtually eliminated in the U.S. due to high vaccination rates. Childhood vaccination have proven to be safe and effective for decades. However, the increase in vaccine hesitancy from the COVID pandemic with falling childhood coverage is likely to result in more childhood diseases. There has been a recent case of polio in New York. Measles spiked in the U.S. in 2019 to the highest level in years due to misinformation about the association between childhood vaccines and autism.
The polarizing reaction to COVID-19 vaccines has concerned many medical and public health professionals. Dr. Georgina Peacock, director of the CDC’s immunization division, feels that building trust in vaccinations “is something that has to happen at the local and community level.”
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Contact: Dr. Dick Needleman, Health reporter, 103.3 AshevilleFM, email@example.com