Children falling behind on vaccinations due to COVID-19 pandemic, doctors say

'We don't want an outbreak of measles in school,' Palm Beach County health director cautions
Posted at 6:00 AM, Apr 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-12 06:00:02-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — While young children are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, health leaders want to make sure kids are keeping up with their other regular immunizations.

Dr. Alina Alonso, the director of the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, said that as students are returning to school in-person after being virtual, health officials are finding that a lot of kids are not caught up on their vaccines.

Dr. Celina Moore, a pediatrician with Advanced Pediatrics of Boca, told WPTV that while some parents think their kids don't need their shots while learning from home, it's important they are up-to-date.

"We are still not where we were a year and a half ago with childhood immunization rates," Moore said.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: State Of Education

While the COVID-19 vaccine has dominated headlines over the past few months, Moore is reminding parents to not let the other shots slip your mind.

"I've had a lot of parents tell me, well, my kid is doing virtual classes at home, or we're not going anywhere," Moore said. "That's not a great excuse to not come in, because you can still get these diseases."

At the start of the pandemic, Moore said parents were scared to bring their kids into doctor's offices.

While that situation has improved, Moore said now is the time to make sure your child is caught up on his or her vaccinations.

"We remind them that our experience with COVID-19 shows us how scary the world can be when there's a contagious disease that we really can't treat and can be deadly, and that we really don't have much in terms of prevention," Moore said.

Alonso told county commissioners on April 6 that students are coming back to school without their required vaccines. So the health department is working with the School District of Palm Beach County to get everyone up-to-date.

"We've got a lot of kids coming back to school and there's a large number who have not been vaccinated," Alonso said. "We don't want an outbreak of measles in school after all the work we've done with COVID."


Dr. Alina Alonso talks school vaccinations

A health department spokesman said students who do not have a primary care provider are referred to a local federally qualified health center or local Department of Health clinic for immunization services.

"We are starting to cautiously reopen and test the waters, and it's a really exciting time to get back to normal," Moore said. "We just need to make sure we are doing the right things and protecting ourselves, not only against COVID, but against everything else."

Students who are new to the School District of Palm Beach County, or those entering kindergarten or seventh grade, must have certain immunizations documented before they attend school, unless they have a specific exemption on file.

Moore said pediatricians are seeing a dip in children getting those seventh grade shots on time.

For a list of the required vaccinations in the School District of Palm Beach County, click here.

For more information from the Florida Department of Health about childhood and school immunizations, click here.