Study Outlines Significant Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Childhood Vaccination Rates

Skylar Kenney, Assistant Editor

The researchers analyzed immunization records for more than 300,000 Texas children from birth to 24 months.

Childhood vaccination rates in Texas showed a sharp decline during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published in Vaccine. The researchers used data from a statewide immunization registry to determine how immunization rates changed over a 10-year period for children at 4 age milestones: 1 month, 5 months, 16 months, and 24 months. They also analyzed county-level data from 2019 and 2020 to compare rural and urban locations.

In order to determine the effect of the pandemic on vaccination rates in Texas, the researchers analyzed immunization records for more than 300,000 Texas children from birth to 24 months. They found that the proportion of children who were current on recommended vaccines in all 4 age categories increased between 2010 and 2019, but there was a sharp decrease in vaccination between 2019 and 2020 for most categories, which the authors attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The declines were highest in the 5-month-old and 16-month-old groups, according to the investigators. The 5-month-old group saw a 47% decline whereas the 16-month-old group saw a 58% decline. The analysis of county-level data found that 5-month-old children in rural locations had greater declines in immunization rates than those living in urban areas. No decrease was found in the administration of hepatitis B vaccines at birth, suggesting immunizations that take place in clinics or physician’s offices as opposed to hospitals are the most affected by the pandemic.

The researchers also found that the measles vaccine has not seen the same level of uptake increase seen in most vaccines prior to the pandemic. Measles, mumps, and rubella coverage has been declining in Texas since 2015 and is currently below the 95% coverage level required to achieve herd immunity, suggesting the pandemic’s impact on vaccination rates increases the risk of a measles outbreak in Texas and could have substantial public health consequences.

The study results are similar to those focusing on other states, but the authors note the findings are limited by their data source. The ImmTrac2 immunization registry is an opt-in registry, which means that the data may not reflect the population as a whole.

REFERENCE

Study shows sharp decrease in Texas childhood vaccination rates during pandemic [news release]. EurekAlert; May 19, 2021. Accessed May 20, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-05/tau-sss051921.php