By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The Wyoming Department of Health has seen an “alarming” decline in the number of administered immunizations since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a news released issued Tuesday, the WDH pointed to a decline in immunizations given by providers enrolled in the department’s Immunization Unit’s Vaccines for Children and Wyoming Vaccinates Important People programs.
The Wyoming Immunization Registry showed state providers administered 42% fewer vaccines in April compared to April 2019. The total number of vaccine doses ordered by these providers has dropped about 25% compared to April 2019.
“It appears the pandemic’s uncertainty and challenges have resulted in the postponement of routine well-child visits, which typically include immunizations,” Jude Alden, Immunization Unit manager with WDH, said in the release. “While we recognize the reasons for the decrease, we also want to encourage families to stay on track and to schedule appointments to make up any immunizations that may have been missed.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published data earlier this month that confirmed the trend of lower vaccinations during the pandemic is being experienced nationwide and not just in Wyoming.
Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, is concerned postponing routine visits and immunizations could put Wyoming families at a higher risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles and whooping cough.
“It is critical for infants, young children, pregnant women and people with chronic illnesses to continue maintaining routine immunizations during the pandemic to help prevent further outbreaks,” she said in the release. “We definitely do not want outbreaks of other dangerous diseases to unexpectedly grow in Wyoming while we are still dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.”
Alden said clinics across Wyoming are using strategies to help ensure safe access to their patients for routine visits, such as:
- Designating specific entrances, hours and exam rooms;
- Checking in patients outside of the clinic and allowing them to wait in the parking lot until appointment times;
- Allowing one caregiver to accompany a child to the clinic;
- Cleaning and disinfecting exam rooms between patients; and
- Encouraging all patients to wear cloth face coverings as they come into the clinic.