Dangers of Missing Childhood Vaccinations During COVID-19

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Childhood vaccines not only protect each child from a variety of infectious diseases, but they also protect entire communities from the return of these diseases. In the past, outbreaks of measles, chickenpox, whooping cough and other diseases have taken a toll on both children and adults, but vaccines have all but eliminated them from existence. Now, due to COVID-related limitations on how and when they can see their doctors to receive vaccinations, children are at a higher risk not only of contracting these diseases but also facing other health-related problems.

1. Delaying childhood vaccines leave kids at risk when they are most vulnerable.

Vaccine schedules are crafted to deliver vaccines to children when they are most susceptible to diseases. If they skip the vaccinations and get sick, it is at a time when they are most vulnerable to the disease and its complications. Vaccinations take time to provide full immunity, with some requiring more than one dose several months apart, and waiting to get those vaccines leaves children unprotected even longer than normal. Sticking to your doctor’s schedule for administering your child’s vaccines helps provide immunity as soon as possible.

2. Changes to the vaccine schedule could affect the vaccine’s effectiveness.

Your child’s immunization schedule was created not only to immunize your child when they are most at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases, but also to ensure the vaccines are the most effective. Vaccines are scheduled for the times when children have the best immune response to the vaccine. In addition, they are scheduled out to reduce the risk of negative interaction between vaccines that would render one or more of the vaccines ineffective. Changing the schedule could interfere with how well the individual vaccines work.

3. Missing vaccines could impact future medical treatment of your child.

It may seem like there would be no difference in treating unvaccinated children and vaccinated children, but that’s not entirely true. If you take your child to the doctor, to an emergency room or call 911, it is imperative for you to inform all medical personnel that your child is not vaccinated, so your child receives the right treatment. There are instances where they will require altered or additional treatment, and medical personnel need to be able to address those needs.

4. Skipping vaccines puts other kids at risk.

Many children are unable to receive childhood immunizations due to medical reasons, such as having a compromised immune system or undergoing cancer therapy. Therefore, they rely on the immunity of others—those who have received childhood vaccines—to help protect them from contracting diseases. As long as those who can be immunized receive childhood immunizations, they can help prevent an outbreak of these common diseases. That is known as herd immunity—when so many people are immune that few are susceptible, making it difficult for an outbreak to take hold.

Herd immunity keeps the community as a whole more safe and healthy.

5. Delaying childhood vaccines could impact your child’s social interactions.

If your child is not vaccinated and an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease occurs, he may have to leave school and miss sports and other events in order to avoid contracting or spreading the disease. This quarantine could last days, weeks or longer depending on how long it takes the outbreak to subside. This, in turn, could be problematic for working parents who need to find childcare at a moment’s notice.

Delayed childhood vaccines don’t have to impact your budget.

Although many parents don’t have a regular pediatrician or family doctor of their own, that’s no reason to skip childhood vaccines. Call your state or local health department to see how you can schedule an appointment to have your child vaccinated. If you need free vaccines, check with the Vaccines for Children program, which provides free vaccines to eligible children. If you do not have a VFC provider nearby, talk with your state or local health department regarding available programs to reduce or cover the cost of your child’s vaccines.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 4
  1. The Dangers of Skipping Routine Vaccinations During COVID-19. Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. https://healthier.stanfordchildrens.org/en/maintaining-vaccinations-during-covid-19/
  2. Risks of Spacing or Delaying Vaccines in Children. Children’s Wisconsin. https://childrenswi.org/NewsHub/stories/risks-of-spacing-or-delaying-vaccines-in-children
  3. The Harm of Skipping Vaccinations or Delaying. New York State Department of Health. https://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/immunization/vaccine_safety/harm.htm
  4. Infant and Toddler Health. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/vaccines/art-20048334
  5. VFC Detailed Questions and Answers for Parents. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/vfc/parents/qa-detailed.html

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