NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Early-childhood immunizations declined during the pandemic as the Tennessee Department of Health plans to ignore Immunization Awareness Month.
Historically, Tennessee's early-childhood immunizations have not met objectives, according to this Department of Health study based on a survey.
"If we stop vaccinating for common illnesses, if we stop vaccinating for flu, pneumonia, mumps, measles, rubella and polio, then what’s going to happen is you’re going to start to see resurgence of those infections," Dr. Aaron Milstone said.
Meanwhile, public health officials have been told to not encourage teens to get vaccinated as they review their communication plan. The backlash linked to this decision has Dr. Milstone concerned. "In order to catch up, we’ve got to put the politics aside, we‘ve got to get folks back to their pediatrician, back to their doctor, and really ensure they have adequate access to their doctors and adequate education," Milstone said,
This graph shows there was a 2 to 26% decline in early-childhood immunizations during the pandemic.
The study noted that Tennessee ranks in the bottom 20% of states for the completion of the recommended seven vaccine series for toddlers. Since catch-up immunizations have not occurred, doctors fear children will be left exposed to dangerous diseases.
Due to vaccine hesitancy, Dr. Milstone said state officials should be more aggressive with education instead of scaling back. "As you can imagine if something is rushed to market, there’s going to be hesitancy to go ahead and line up," Dr. Milstone said, "The best analogy is do you buy a new car on a brand new model year or do you wait a year for the car industry to work out some of the kinks? It’s very different with vaccines though." He noted they go through rigorous clinical trials.