State health officials report a decline in the vaccination rates among children across Missouri during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) is partnering with the Missouri Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (MOAAP) to encourage parents to take their children for well-child visits and recommended vaccinations.

“Well-child visits monitor a child’s growth and development, as well as provide important immunizations. Routine visits with your child’s pediatrician or primary care provider are essential to keeping your child healthy during and after the COVID-19 pandemic,” MOAAP president Kristin Sohl said. 

Missouri’s vaccination rates during the COVID-19 pandemic

The state health department reports in April there was more than a 50% decline in the number of vaccines given to children 18 years old or younger compared to April 2019. Slight increases in vaccines given were then seen in May and June. Compared to the same timeframe in 2019, the decreases were still more than 35% and 30% for the respective months.  

DHSS Director Randall Williams said the department is working with MOAPP, Federally Qualified Health centers and local public health agencies to safely provide vaccines to residents to avoid an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease and ensure children are able to enter school as they reopen. 

“One of the many things we have been working on is outlining ways that we can help protect students, teachers and their families during this time,” Williams said. “Getting caught up on well-child visits and vaccinations is a proactive measure that we encourage families to take. Many childhood illnesses can be prevented by vaccines, and protecting our immune systems is especially important this school year.”

What are health care providers doing to ensure well-child visits are safe?

Guidance has been given to health care providers on what they can do to ensure safety during the well-child visits. Based on the guidance received from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), providers have implemented procedures and have added precautions to ensure the safety and well-being of Missouri families.

The state health department reports offices are bringing patients directly from their cars to a room, utilizing separate entrances, completely separating office space between sick and well-child visits, or holding well-child visits first and then sick visits later in the afternoon with additional cleaning procedures in between visits. 

These extra steps are being taken to prioritize patient safety and health, according to the DHSS. Clinics are adapting their office visit procedures in real-time based on the most updated guidance.

Health care providers should determine which children have missed well-child visits and the recommended vaccines and prioritize rescheduling them, starting with newborns, according to the department.

What can parents do to protect themselves and their child during well-child visits?

The DHSS has provided the following steps people can take to reduce the risk of getting a viral respiratory infection, including COVID-19:

•Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

•Avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

•Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

•Practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet from other people who are not from your household in both indoor and outdoor spaces.

•Wear a face covering if over two years old. 

•Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.

•Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.

Based on guidance from CDC, there has been a decrease in the number of vaccines ordered and administered through the Vaccines for Children program during the COVID-19 pandemic 

The Vaccines for Children program is a national program that provides federally-purchased vaccine to roughly 50% of U.S. children that are 18 years old or younger and meet the following criteria:

•Medicaid-eligible.

•Uninsured.

•Underinsured, vaccinated at local public health agencies only.

•American Indian or Alaska Native. 

To learn more about COVID-19 and well-child checkups, visit health.mo.gov/wellchild.