The price of the Covid-19 corona virus keeps getting higher. It can be measured in lives lost – at this writing 276,911 deaths worldwide and 78,639 in the U.S. Or it can be measured in economic impact – 14.7% unemployment in the U.S. and 20.5 million jobs lost in the month of April. But soon it will also be measured in the rising number of cases of measles and other childhood diseases.
Parents are delaying vaccinations of their children. The immunization rate for all recommended childhood vaccines declined about 40% in the U.S. from late February through mid-April, according to Physician’s Computer Co., a provider of electronic health record systems. The data are based on vaccines administered by more than 1,000 pediatricians in 40 states who use PCC’s record system.
Sarah Krouse, writing in The Wall Street Journal, says mothers fear contracting the Covid-19 virus, either by themselves or their babies, if they go to their pediatricians for vaccinations. Despite reassurances from the pediatricians, many refuse to comply with the normal schedule of vaccinations. This leaves these children vulnerable to highly contagious diseases such as measles, rotavirus, whooping cough and polio as social-distancing orders lift.
Pediatricians are taking extreme measures to reassure their parents and encourage regular visits but many parents continue to be skeptical. Pediatric Healthcare Associates, which treats 35,000 patients, requires all children to be vaccinated. They screen patients over the phone and draw shots while patients wait in their cars. Staff then escort the patient and one caretaker – who must wear a mask – to an exam room to administer the vaccines.
Delaying vaccinations will have serious repercussions. There is a risk of death of 0.2% or two in every 1000 cases of measles in the U.S. The risk is much higher in other countries. The mortality rate of whooping cough is 0.5% or five in one thousand for infants under the age of six months. Polio is much higher with a mortality rate of 2-5 percent in children.
The price of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to get higher. Let’s hope fearful parents won’t let it get worse by delaying vaccinations of their children.