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Immunologist stresses the importance of childhood vaccinations

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Every day, parents around the world take steps to make sure their children are safe. But new data shows that some parents are skipping one of the most important factors in a child’s safety and wellbeing: immunizations.

Newly-compiled data shows the largest sustained worldwide decline in childhood vaccinations in approximately 30 years, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF. An estimated 25 million children under the age of 1 year failed to receive basic vaccines in 2021, the highest number since 2009.

The coronavirus pandemic played a role in the drop in vaccination rates, according to Dr. Avery August, immunology professor and member of the American Association of Immunologists.

“The stress of the pandemic on the healthcare system has deferred a number of routine healthcare things that we’ve been doing, including immunizations,” August said. “Because we’ve had to spend a lot of time taking care of individuals who have symptoms or are sick from COVID-19, we haven’t been able to do those routine things like immunizations.”

August says that when children — and adults — don’t get their vaccines, they’re more susceptible to preventable illnesses like whooping cough, measles, mumps, and chicken pox.

“As vaccination rates go down, we see the emergence of infections that would normally have been kept at bay. That’s because immunizations protect us from the debilitating effects, in some cases, of the infection and they protect against symptoms of those infections,” August said.

The vaccination schedule for children begins at birth, according to August.

“There are a number of vaccines that are recommended for children from birth to six years old. Children would normally be getting hepatitis A and B vaccines, mumps, rubella, chicken pox. For children who are between seven and 18 years old, we would recommend they get the HPV vaccine which protects against certain cancers.”

August says parents shouldn’t worry about the safety of vaccines and myths about the dangers of vaccines have been debunked “many times by many rigorous studies.”

“We know that, by the time vaccines get to be used in the public, they’ve undergone many, many years of clinical study,” August said. ” By the time they get into the clinic, they’ve been tested in many, many different individuals and they’re very safe for use and protect against illness, particularly in infections.”

Visit the website of the American Association of Immunologists for more information on vaccinations.