NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — After the United States saw its first case of polio in nearly a decade, News 2 looked into vaccination rates in Tennessee. Although children in Tennessee are supposed to get vaccinated for polio, that’s not always the case.
Data from the Tennessee Department of Health shows a 2.7% dip in the number of children getting vaccinated for polio over a one-year period. It’s one of 10 childhood vaccines seeing a drop.
When we took these numbers to pediatricians at Vanderbilt; the news came as no surprise.
“There’s definitely correlation with the onset of the pandemic and decrease in vaccination rates. And it’s interesting, it’s not only a local phenomenon, it’s around the United States and around the country as well,” said Dr. Joseph Gigante, Professor of Pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital.
Last week in New York, health officials announced an adult diagnosed with polio. With fewer children vaccinated in Tennessee, Dr. Gigante worries it might not be the only case we see.
“It’s so preventable by getting routine vaccines. There’s no reason why in this day and age any person in the United States should be getting polio,” Dr. Gigante said.
He said a drop in vaccination rates could be an unintended cause of the pandemic.
“I think now there’s been so many questions about the COVID vaccine and I think that’s unfortunately bled into the other childhood vaccines as well as far as kind of conspiracy theories and misinformation,” he said.
He added that at the beginning of the pandemic, many parents wanted to keep healthy children away from hospitals and healthcare facilities treating COVID-19 patients. However, now some of those children are behind in immunizations and wellness exams.
With the start of school just around the corner, Dr. Gigante urges parents to make sure their child is vaccinated before entering kindergarten. He says another key milestone is making sure your child is up to date on their immunizations by the time they turn two.
If parents have questions about immunizations, he begs them to go to their doctor, instead of the internet, for information.
“I, as a pediatrician, want to do my best to help keep your child healthy, just like you want to do your best to keep your child healthy. And from a medical perspective, an easy way to do this to really prevent these vaccine-preventable diseases is having your child immunized,” Dr. Gigante said.
Doctors say getting your child vaccinated can help other kids who are immunocompromised and can’t get immunized themselves.