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EDITORIALS

Don't forgo vaccinations for your children

Joplin Globe

Missouri officials are reporting a decline in vaccination rates among children in the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was a more than 50% decrease in the number of vaccines given to children 18 and younger in April of this year compared with April 2019, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Slight increases in vaccines given were seen in May and June, but compared with the same time frame in 2019, the rates were still down by more than 30%, state officials said.

Unfortunately, the trend isn't specific to Missouri. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reports a decline in the number of vaccines ordered and administered through the Vaccines for Children program, which provides federally purchased vaccines to children who are eligible for Medicaid, uninsured or underinsured, or an American Indian or Alaskan Native.

These numbers are discouraging. Children need their regular vaccinations to stay safe and healthy and to maintain herd immunity, thereby protecting the immunocompromised and those who otherwise cannot receive vaccines for medical reasons. It seems to us that vaccines would be even more important during the upcoming academic year, when COVID-19 also is threatening the public health.

If you're worried about taking your child to see the pediatrician during the pandemic, there are a number of safety protocols being implemented by health care providers across Missouri to minimize risk. Those protocols include offices bringing patients directly from their cars to a room, using separate entrances and separating well-child visits from sick visits, state health officials said.

And if the uncertainty of a COVID-19 vaccine is causing you to doubt other existing vaccinations, then consider this: Vaccinations including Tdap and polio have long been required by the state health department for students enrolled in public schools, and they work.

"Getting caught up on well-child visits and vaccinations is a proactive measure that we encourage families to take," says Randall Williams, director of the state health department. "Many childhood illnesses can be prevented by vaccines, and protecting our immune systems is especially important this school year."

Vaccines of another kind — the annual flu shot — even surfaced earlier this week at the city of Joplin weekly COVID-19 briefing. Dan Pekarek, assistant city manager and director of the city's health department, noted that the flu and COVID-19 have similar symptoms, and by getting a flu shot, residents can keep themselves healthy while also potentially ruling out one of the illnesses should they fall ill.

"Please get your flu shot," he implored residents. "When flu shots become available, it's going to be very important."

Parents, set a good example — go get your flu shot, and then make an appointment with your pediatrician to get your children caught up on vaccinations. It's the best way to ensure that they can stay healthy.