By Kate Matlin, Public Health Associate
Since public health stay-at-home orders were announced in Colorado due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, fewer parents have been taking their children to routine well-child visits. As a result, Colorado’s already-low vaccination rates dropped even further in early 2020. (For reference, during the 2018-19 school year, Colorado already had the lowest-in-the-nation rate for kindergarten MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination at 87.4%.) Compared to the number of doses delivered from January to March 15, 2020, doses delivered after March 15 to May were 31% lower for children 0-2 years, 78% lower for 3-9 years, and 82% lower for 10-17 years of age. Although vaccination rates have improved since this initial drop, they have not returned to pre-pandemic levels. And as disease prevention measures gradually ease up over the next year and kids head back to in-person learning, low vaccination rates could leave children vulnerable to diseases like measles.
Since the first COVID-19 vaccines became available, healthcare professionals, community workers, and politicians alike have been urging anyone eligible for a vaccine to get one. With cases still circulating in the U.S. and new variants threatening to worsen conditions, mass vaccination appears to be the best way out of the pandemic.
There are currently three COVID-19 vaccines Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson (J&J), approved through Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in the United States. So far, over 2.3 million total vaccines have been administered in the country as of April 27, 2021.The most recently approved vaccine, the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine, was approved on February 27th, 2021, for all adults (18+).
Communities of color have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, having disproportionately high case, hospitalization and death rates across the U.S. and in Colorado. This disparate impact on communities of color is in large part due to systemic health inequities fueled by past and ongoing racism. Racism in the medical field has led to decreased trust in vaccines, and more hesitancy. To make matters worse, the anti-vaccine movement has recently targeted communities of color, specifically, with misinformation about vaccines in order to sow increased doubt and dissuade them from getting vaccinated.
By Ellie Dullea
Healthcare workers play an essential role as trusted vaccine advocates in the community. In a 2017 survey of 400+ Colorado parents, medical doctors were found to be the most influential factor in parents’ plan for their children’s immunizations. Similarly, immunization providers will play a vital role in increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates by easing patient concerns about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy and offering strong recommendations for vaccination.