Officials: CT routine child vaccinations bouncing back, bucking national trend

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While a new CDC report indicates routine childhood vaccinations are still lagging nationwide, Connecticut health officials say orders for doses have increased 12 percent this year.

While a new CDC report indicates routine childhood vaccinations are still lagging nationwide, Connecticut health officials say orders for doses have increased 12 percent this year.

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Connecticut health officials say the state is bucking a nationwide trend that shows routine child vaccinations are still lagging since plummeting last year during the early days of the COVID pandemic.

The state Department of Public Health said its CT Vaccine Program, which distributes to providers nearly every dose of vaccine administered to children age 18 and younger, has seen a 12 percent increase in vaccine dose orders during the first five months of 2021 compared with the same period last year.

The state reported that 379,747 doses of vaccine were ordered between January and May of this year compared with the 336,030 ordered during that period in 2020.

“The department is working with pediatricians to deliver COVID-19 vaccines for pediatric patients as they become eligible and to facilitate catch-up for children who are overdue for routine vaccines,” said Kathy Kudish, immunization program manager and deputy state public health veterinarian with DPH.

Dr. Zane Saul, chief of infectious disease at Bridgeport Hospital, said doctors offices are now fully open again and he’s seeing more patients returning for routine visits.

“I think we’re going to play catch-up on a lot of things, and childhood vaccines are part of that,” he said.

However, it appears other states are not catching up as quickly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report this month showing that, though childhood vaccinations increased from June to September 2020, “this increase was not sufficient to achieve catch-up coverage” from a significant drop in vaccinations between March and May 2020.

The CDC examined data from 10 states — including New York, but not Connecticut — from March to May 2020 and determined doses administered to children and adolescents dropped for all vaccines reviewed across the 10 jurisdictions compared with the same period in 2018 and 2019.

For instance, among children younger than 24 months and those aged 2 to 6 years, doses of the DTaP vaccine, which protects against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus, declined by an average of 15.7 percent and 60.3 percent, respectively, compared with the same period in 2018 and 2019.

The data also shows that doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine administered to children aged 12 to 23 months and 2 to 8 years declined by an average of 22.4 percent and 63.1 percent, respectively, between March and May 2020.

Among children aged 9 to 12 years and adolescents aged 13 to 17 years, doses of human papillomavirus vaccine declined a median of 63.6 percent and 71.3 percent, respectively, between March and May 2020 compared with doses administered during the same period in 2018 and 2019.

From June to September 2020, after most stay-at-home orders had been lifted, the number of weekly routine pediatric vaccine doses started to rise again, nearing pre-pandemic levels in most of the 10 jurisdictions, with some exceptions.

“However, across all age groups and across all vaccine types, none of the jurisdictions demonstrated a sustained or prolonged increase in the number of weekly doses administered above pre-pandemic administration levels, which would have been necessary to catch-up children and adolescents who missed routine vaccinations,” the report read.

For instance, among children younger than 24 months and between 2 and 6 years, administration of DTaP vaccine declined by an average of 9.1 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively, between June and September 2020, compared with the same period during 2018 and 2019.

Other vaccines also remained lower than pre-pandemic levels, including the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, and human papillomavirus vaccine.

But Saul maintained that Connecticut appears to be on an upswing and theorized adolescent COVID vaccinations could help promote inoculations for other illnesses.

As people see COVID rates fall as vaccinations rise, “I think that sends a very potent message about what vaccines can do,” Saul said.