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Washington health leaders concerned about childhood vaccination dip during pandemic

The department of health is concerned about a dip in the number of general immunizations being distributed during the pandemic. The group most affected is children.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Washington State Department of Health released data revealing less adolescents are receiving their general immunizations compared to years past, because of the effects of the pandemic.

These immunizations do not include the COVID-19 vaccine. DOH is concerned about shots that kids have been recommended to receive for decades for viruses like measles, mumps and polio.

When looking at a graph outlining the general immunization rates over the past 5 years, every immunization for 11 to 12-year-olds took a dip in 2020. DOH says they suspect parents have not been taking their kids to their annual doctor check-ups, because of concerns over COVID-19.

“We recognize that last spring when the state shut down it was really confusing. Like when should I be going out? What routine medical care should I be seeking?" Michele Roberts, spokesperson for the Washington Department of Health Prevention and Community Health Division, said.

Those questions are no longer a concern now, according to Roberts. She said with new health and safety procedures, doctors’ offices are safe to return to. The DOH is urging parents to take their children in for general check-ups to verify they are up to date on immunizations.

Ensuring children are up to date on their shots will decrease the risks of other viral outbreaks. DOH says this is particularly important as children return to in-person learning this school year.

The DOH data shows the immunization rates for adolescents dipped to its lowest rate in mid-2020. In 2021, those numbers started to increase again but are still not as high as years past.

"That is concerning and really puts our state at risk of outbreaks of other diseases and why we're letting parents know that now is the time to make sure they're caught up on their routine childhood immunizations," Roberts said.