Tennessee health officials concerned about low child immunization rates

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (WMC) – There is an urgent call to action from some of Tennessee’s top health officials regarding children in the state.

There has been a major drop in vaccinations among the state’s adolescents for a number of preventive diseases.

Last year around this time, parents were picking up laptops in preparation for a virtual school year. In a few days, the kids will go back to class and parents may have forgotten a very important step.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant vaccine gap and in preventive services among U.S. children and adolescents,” said Dr. Heather Brandt, director of HPV cancer prevention at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Brandt says that as of May 2021, adolescent vaccinations have fallen by at least 18 percent nationwide. In Tennessee, that number has fallen by 17 percent.

“So now it’s time to get kids back on track,” Brandt said.

Twenty Tennessee health care organizations, including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, have teamed up for a call to action to get children immunized for things like whooping cough, meningitis and HPV.

Health officials say the nationwide push to get people aged 12 and older vaccinated against the coronavirus is right on target.

“If an adolescent missed one of those routinely recommended vaccines during the pandemic, they can get a COVID-19 vaccine and those routinely recommended vaccines at the same time,” Brandt said.

Currently, only 2.5 percent of those in Tennessee who received the COVID-19 shot are 12 to 15 years old, leaving a slew of kids who could get that vaccine, plus their full round of back-to-school. vaccines at once.

Public health leaders are encouraging health care providers to contact patients who have missed recommended vaccinations and use every patient visit as a vaccination opportunity.

Brandt says lower vaccination rates puts the public at risk for outbreaks. So if you put a visit to the doctor back on the back-to-school list, everyone can be safe.

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