PORTSMOUTH, Va (WAVY) – The CDC is warning that 250,000 young children are at risk of getting measles as vaccination rates dropped for a second straight year.
“My biggest fear is the unimmunized child that can have a bad outcome,” said Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters Medical Group medical director Dr. Douglas Mitchell.
Mitchell has seen what the measles and other vaccine preventable diseases can do to a child.
“With any of these, you’re talking about a child potentially being in the hospital or being in the ICU dying from some of these disease that are clearly vaccine preventable.” he told WAVY.
Vaccination coverage of childhood diseases is now the lowest its been in more than a decade.
“It is significant if you’ve got the potential for outbreaks,” Mitchell said.
That’s exactly what’s happening in central Ohio, where 85 measles cases have been reported, mostly among unvaccinated children. 34 of those children were hospitalized.
So what’s the risk in Hampton Roads?
According to the Virginia Department of Health, the vaccination rate for kindergarten students in public schools in Portsmouth is just 69%, in Norfolk it is 85%, followed by Newport News at 88%, and Virginia Beach at 89%. Hampton, Suffolk and Chesapeake are all above 90%.
Overall immunization rates in children have decreased since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. The CDC blames disruptions to schools and the health care system for the decline.
Mitchell adds vaccine hesitancy has increased in some cases. It’s something he says doctors must approach without judgement when addressing parents.
“Fevers from vaccines are temporary, (but) the bad outcomes of the complications from the actual diseases, they’re permanent,” he said.
Mitchell is hopeful immunization rates will increase as kids get back on regular well visit schedules.
Meantime, in a separate report, the CDC said vaccine coverage for children born in 2018-2019 increased slightly by the time they turned two compared with kids born the previous year.