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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

"We don’t want an epidemic of measles or whooping cough" | Vaccination rates are down across the country

“We need the mass of the population to be immunized against these very serious vaccine preventable diseases," said Dr. Jennifer Snow.

MEMPHIS, Tenn — This week, Governor Bill Lee declared August, Immunization Awareness Month, in Tennessee.

This year, vaccination rates are down across the country and the pandemic has played a huge role in that.

Local 24 News Reporter Brittani Moncrease spoke with a local pediatrician about the issue.

The pandemic has created a domino effect on many aspects of our lives especially health. Since the start, health providers have seen less people get vaccinated.

The early stay-at-home policies and on-going push for social distancing are key in this pandemic; however, it has inadvertently impacted other health issues, like vaccinations. 

“Since the pandemic started, there has been a decline in vaccination rates,” said Dr. Jennifer Snow, Baptist Children's Hospital Medical Director of Pediatric ICU.

When Dr. Snow says decline, she means a significant one.

“There was a study out it Michigan. It looked at states, and the rates have fallen at least by 40% to 60%. In New York rates in New York City, the height of their pandemic and their surge was down by 90% compared to last year,” said Dr. Snow.

For Tennessee children, there has been a 43% decrease, so health officials are getting the word out.

“Vaccines are so important for children for their development, for their safety, and for adults. It’s not just for children and adolescents. Vaccination rates have been decreased even in the adult population” said Dr. Snow.

The long-term effects of this decline can be detrimental.

“The fear is that there is going to be a rise in infections that are prevented by vaccines. We don’t want an epidemic of measles or whooping cough or pertussis during a COVID pandemic,” said Dr. Snow. “We need the mass of the population to be immunized against these very serious vaccine preventable diseases.”

While it is understandable that people may not want to physically go into a health facility, there are procedures in place.

“Pediatrician offices are taking measures to keep their patients and families safe. They are sanitizing and mandating masks in the office. They are decreasing the patient volume such that there’s not a lot of people waiting in the waiting room,” said Dr. Snow.

She said it is important for patients to check with their providers ahead of their visit to see what safety measures they have in place.