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A recent study serves as a small picture of a national problem that some fears may worsen over the fall as children return to school for in-person instruction.

The national survey, released Wednesday by Orlando Health, found that most parents believe vaccines are the best way to protect their children from infectious diseases, but two-thirds are still nervous about taking their children in their pediatrician’s office due to COVID -19.

While only about 700 of the 2,000 respondents were parents of children under the age of 18, pediatricians say this is a reflection of a trend they are seeing in their offices, where they have seen a reduction in vaccinations of children since the onset of the pandemic.

Dr Mary Carol Burkhardt, director of primary care at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, said she has seen a drastic drop in vaccinations against all diseases since March and has yet to recover that volume of patients.

She is concerned that this could lead to an outbreak of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles or pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

“All this will take is a case of measles entering our community and we will see loss of life that is completely and utterly unnecessary,” said Dr. Alix Casler, pediatrician and head of the Department of Pediatrics for Orlandas Medical Health. “It can be difficult for people to understand how important universal vaccinations are, because they have never seen how devastating these diseases can be.”

Dr Margot Savoy, associate professor and chair of the family and community medicine department at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia, said measles can also be dangerous because they do not tend to show up in a case in it. at the same time, but instead appear in groups with many people in one pocket getting sick.

“We’ve had more cases of measles in the last two years than we’ve had in a decade,” she said. “And it looks like it’s crawling.”

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Experts argue that missed vaccinations are important not only for the patients themselves, but also for adults and other children who have not been vaccinated, including children under the age of one, who are not yet old enough to receive the first dose. of measles vaccine. (The list of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of vaccine lists can be found here.)

The only reason we have herd immunity against so many diseases is because above 90% to 95% of children are vaccinated, Casler said, but no one will be presumed safe once the country falls below that level.

“Families have been on the right track to have fewer and fewer vaccinations of children, but during this crisis … the amount of vaccinations has been decreasing,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, chief medical officer at Mars Dimes and former West Virginia health commissioner. “There is no doubt that there will be a resurgence of other diseases.”

While it is not certain whether the new school year will bring a new explosion, doctors say it is not out of the realm of possibilities.

Before the measles, Savoy said she is more concerned about the flu. As more schools postpone start dates, parents feel less pressure to vaccinate their children for the flu.

“It makes me very nervous because the flu kills more children than we give them credit,” she said. “We forget how deadly influence it can be on children.”

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All 50 states have legislation requiring student-specific vaccines, however, 45 states and Washington DC grant religious exemptions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Fifteen states allow philosophical exceptions for those who oppose immunizations because of personal, moral, or other beliefs.

“Consider a person who is in a kindergarten or school … that their updated vaccinations are necessary,” Burkhardt said. “() It’s important) for those who are in school, but important for anyone because it can be a community spread as well.”

Experts urge parents who have missed their child’s scheduled vaccinations to call their doctor and create a plan to reach out.

Savoy says it is never too late for a child to be vaccinated and it is very likely that they do not need to restart a series of vaccines if they have already received the first dose. She advises parents who are nervous about COVID-19 to schedule a telemedicine appointment first so that travel to the doctor’s office is quick and easy.

“We worked so hard to eradicate (measles), it would be a shame to go back to the other side,” she said.

Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.

Patient health and safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Massimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competitiveness in Health. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial data.

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