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More evidence US childhood vaccinations are dropping amid coronavirus pandemic

The number of childhood vaccines administered in Michigan has dropped by as much as 22% amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report released Monday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report uses Michigan as a case study, but that doesn't necessarily suggest the state is worse off than others when it comes to vaccines. The findings, for example, come less than two weeks after another report from the CDC showed childhood vaccinations plunged in across the United States since the pandemic began.

In that earlier report, the CDC reported a "notable decrease" in the number of vaccines ordered through a federal program that immunizes half of all kids in the US. Unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children will be at risk of other infectious diseases besides coronavirus, the CDC cautioned at the time. The new report looked at Michigan's vaccine information system earlier this month, and found that the number of non-flu vaccine doses administered to children overall decreased 22%. Vaccine doses in children younger than two years old decreased 16%.

Fewer than half of 5-month-olds were up to date on their vaccines this May, according to the study. Typically, about two-thirds of them are.

Children enrolled in Medicaid, a program for low-income Americans, also had lower rates of vaccination. Among 7-month-olds, for example, only 35% of Medicaid-enrolled children were up-to-date on their vaccines. That's compared to 55% of children not enrolled in the program.

"The observed declines in vaccination coverage might leave young children and communities vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles," wrote Cristi Bramer and colleagues at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Immunization Action Coalition in Minnesota and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

They noted that measures aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus may make it more difficult to access health care services. Some services can be replaced by telemedicine, they said, but vaccines require in-person visits.

"Strategies to maintain immunization services include dedicating specific clinics, rooms, or buildings for sick visits and well visits; reducing the number of patients on-site at any one time; closing waiting rooms or registration areas, and having patients check in by phone and receive vaccinations from their vehicles in the parking lot," the researchers wrote.

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