Childhood vaccination rates across the globe have seen the greatest decline in three decades, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF. World health leaders are attributing the decline to lack of vaccine access for children living in conflict zones, but also to an increase in vaccine misinformation and issues related to the pandemic, such as supply chain disruptions and decreased access to immunization during lockdowns.
A decline in childhood vaccinations is being seen in Texas, the Immunization Partnership reports. The number of Texas seventh graders who received their pertussis and meningitis vaccines for the 2021-2022 school year dropped by more than 5% compared with the last school year prior to the pandemic.
Terri Burke, executive director of the partnership, said TDAP vaccinations – the basic vaccination regimen for children for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis – among kindergarteners in Texas are down by 3%. The Immunization Partnership says it’s also seeing a 3% drop in measles and mumps vaccinations and an almost 3% drop in polio vaccinations for Texas children starting kindergarten.
Burke said vaccine misinformation that has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic is tremendously affecting greater vaccine hesitancy.
“Those who are just totally anti-vaccine – I don’t understand them; I can’t talk to them; I’m not speaking about them,” Burke said. “But folks who are vaccine hesitant have certainly had that fear reignited or over ignited because of the COVID vaccine and the misinformation that’s happened around that.”
Heading into the 2022-2023 school year, Burke says her group’s mission is to get trusted leaders in communities to get the word out about the importance of vaccinations.
“From pastors, from pediatricians, from folks [like] your next-door neighbor, who you think has been a pretty good parent here, might want to listen to,” Burke said. “We’ve got to get more people talking about the importance of these vaccines, the good work these vaccines do, because right now there’s a feeling that everybody is opposed to vaccines. So that’s really wrong. But it is a case of those with the loudest voices are the ones who are being heard.”