Experts worried plummeting vaccination rates could lead to next pandemic of childhood diseases

Vaccination rates plummeting during COVID-19 pandemic

Parents avoid doctor visits due to threat of pandemic

DETROIT – While many people anxiously await a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, vaccination rates for other diseases have plummeted, and experts are concerned that could lead to the next pandemic of dangerous and preventable childhood illnesses.

A new survey revealed parents are feeling hesitant to take children to their pediatricians for routine check-ups and shots.

A.J. Velasco is excited to start kindergarten, but his parents are concerned about COVID-19.

“I do think that they’re going to be doing their best to keep the classrooms clean, sanitized, students wearing their masks,” his mother, Cynthia Velasco, said.

Parents have to worry about other infectious diseases, as well.

“The only reason that we have herd immunity protecting our children is because upwards of 90-95% of them are vaccinated,” said Dr. Alix Casler, a pediatrician.

A new national survey by Orlando Health found that while the vast majority of parents believe vaccines are the best way to protect their children from infectious diseases, about two-thirds are still nervous to take their children to their pediatrician’s office because of COVID-19.

Casler said she’s doing everything she can to ensure her patients are safe.

“We don’t have any crowding in the halls,” Casler said. “There’s one family at a time. No one sits in the waiting room anymore.”

The survey also found skepticism about vaccines is still a major issue, with 38% of parents saying they don’t believe their children need all the recommended vaccines.

“People don’t remember polio,” Casler said. “People don’t remember whooping cough outbreaks. People don’t remember measles outbreaks. Those are, because of vaccines, a thing of the past. We’d like to keep it that way.”

A.J. is up-to-date on his shots and ready for his first day of school.

“Not only are we protecting our son, but we’re doing our best to protect others in his school and in our community at large,” Velasco said.

Casler is directly contacting families in her practice to help them overcome barriers to their wellness check-ups, whether that’s nervousness about COVID-19 or loss of employment and insurance.

About the Authors:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.