You May Have to Worry About Another Pandemic Now, Thanks to Coronavirus
With people missing vaccinations, experts worry about new pandemics emerging.
If you've been wary of heading to the doctor's office amid the coronavirus pandemic, you're not alone. According to a report from Harvard University, medical tech company Phreesia, and the Commonwealth Fund, outpatient visits to doctors in the United States dropped 58 percent between mid-February and early April. Unfortunately, parents eager to steer clear of coronavirus patients they might encountered there have significantly reduced the number of vaccines being administered to children during critical periods in their infancy, as well—potentially leading to yet another pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that, between the first report of a stateside COVID-19 case on Jan. 20 and Mar. 23, the number of weekly measles-containing vaccines given to children 24 months and younger ordered through the Vaccines for Children program dropped from over 2,000 to under 1,000.
According to physician and scientist William W. Li, MD, president and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation and author of the New York Times bestseller Eat to Beat Disease, this could mean that a new wave of vaccine-preventable diseases are in our future.
"Lowered vaccination rates for preventable diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, and whooping cough put the country at great risk that these diseases will rebound," says Li. "We can't forget that these diseases themselves once caused epidemics of fear, suffering and in some cases, death in children."
Li explains that for measles, mumps, and rubella, 90 percent or more of any given population must be immunized in order to maintain herd immunity, while for polio, the threshold is 85 percent—figures the recent drop in vaccine rates could potentially threaten. However, he also notes that it's not only diseases that transmit from person to person that are essential to continue getting vaccinated for. Infections like tetanus—which is transmitted through contaminated objects and can cause muscle stiffness, headaches, and heart palpitations, among other symptoms—are vaccine-preventable, as well.
So, what should you do if you or your kids have missed a few doctor's appointments and shots? Li recommends catching up as soon as you can safely do so.
"We've just seen the catastrophic effects that can happen when infectious diseases run amok in a country," he explains. "To keep infectious diseases under control in the US, keeping kids on the CDC-recommended vaccine schedule, especially as restrictions loosen and clinics re-open for routine health visits, is vital."
For information about an immunization you may be getting in the future, read up on 5 Dangerous Myths About the Coronavirus Vaccine You Need to Stop Believing.