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Vaccine fatigue? Health professionals seeing childhood shot slump

By Jamie Lampros - Special to the Daily Herald | Feb 27, 2023

SARAH WEISER, Daily Herald file photo

Kim Lowe, an RN with the Utah County Health Department, prepares a shot with the Zostavax Vaccine, used to reduce the risk of getting shingles, during the Vaccination Clinic held at Forbes Elementary in American Fork on Friday, May 10, 2013. The clinic, which was offering school vaccinations and adult vaccinations, including the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine, was organized by the Utah County Health Department.

In 2021, 70.3% of the pediatric population seen at Utah Valley Pediatrics in Utah County was vaccinated against influenza. This year, 57.4% got the flu vaccine.

At the same nine clinics that make up Utah Valley Pediatrics, regular childhood vaccine numbers were down almost 8% and adolescent vaccines dropped 4.2%.

“That may not seem like big numbers, but in our clinics, we take care of a little bit less than half of the children in Utah County, so it’s quite a lot of kids not being protected by vaccination,” said Dr. Ryan Gottfredson, a pediatrician at Utah Valley Pediatrics in Orem.

Gottfredson said he believes several reasons may be at play to explain the drop in immunizations. First, he said, COVID-19 has, for many people, put a question mark behind what has been the standard recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about vaccines.

“That’s unfortunately because the science and the data and all of our collective experience over the past 100 years about vaccine development stands behind the current recommendation of vaccinations for children,” he said.

Another reason for the decline may be vaccine fatigue, Gottfredson said.

“There was so much discussion about COVID that I think people were just tired of it and wanted to move on with life,” he said.

Gottfredson said whatever the reason, he is asking families to please get their children up to date on all of their vaccinations.

“Families need to stay vigilant in getting their child to their well checks annually and getting their vaccines on schedule,” he said. “Getting your children their routine vaccines is one of the most important things you can do to protect your children from dangerous illness and disease.”

Lyndsey Winger, Weber-Morgan Health Department immunization program manager, said vaccines reduce and sometimes even eliminate the effects of 14 viruses that routinely circulate as we go about our daily lives.

“With vaccination, we can cut back on the amount of sick time and help our kids stay involved in school and other community activities,” she said. “We would also remind busy parents that each fall, we come to Ogden and Weber School District schools to provide a flu immunization clinic.”

The health department also offers vaccines to sixth grade students that are required before entering the seventh grade. All parents need to do is complete a consent form and return it to the school.

According to the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, children in the Davis and Weber-Morgan districts are doing fairly well when it comes to immunizations. However, there is still room for improvement.

“There have been certain vaccines that have seen a drop while others have risen,” said Rich Lakin, immunization director for the Utah Department of Health and Human Services. “For instance, children 24 months of age who were born between 2018 and 2019 had a drop in the Tdap (tetanus diphtheria and acellular pertussis), polio and MMR vaccines and, for the most part, some of them really weren’t that bad. We have been seeing a bit of an increase in parents who are claiming exemptions for their children.”

Lakin said he agrees that people have had some degree of vaccine fatigue.

“I think people just got overloaded with vaccines,” he said. “But we need to remember vaccines are one of the greatest public health achievements along with clean water in the history of the world. We don’t want to see some of these diseases start to reemerge.”

When it comes to the COVID vaccine, Gottfredson said he is in favor of children being immunized against it.

“It’s still a dangerous infection in certain populations, and while over time the virus continues in a trend to basically turn into a more mild infection, currently there’s still enough risk, especially to the elderly,” he said. “We’ve given millions of doses to children and the data is still very good at safety. Yes, there will be some people who have reactions to vaccines, but it’s continuing to be a very rare event.”

To obtain a vaccination schedule, go to dhhs.utah.gov.


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