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Remember other vaccines

Hearts and markets leaped Monday at news that an experimental vaccine against COVID-19 had produced promising results in a test. And in many of the world’s foremost research institutions, intense work continues on more than 100 potential coronavirus vaccines, eight of which are in early trial stages. So there is hope for a breakthrough.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday that the broad stay-at-home protocol to help contain the spread of COVID-19 also has produced a dangerous reduction in vaccinations for other diseases.

The CDC examined Michigan, and found that vaccination rates for children younger than age 2 have fallen precipitously so far in May, and by more than 50 percent for children under 5 months.

“You are prone to potentially seeing measles outbreaks as communities and jurisdictions in Michigan, and arguably in other parts of the country, open up,” said Angela Shen, a research scientist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a coauthor of the CDC’s Michigan analysis. Shen said that a public vaccination rate of between 93 percent and 95 percent is necessary to keep measles in check.

In September 2019, Samoa experienced a measles outbreak amid low vaccination rates. By Jan. 1, more than 5,700 people, nearly 3 percent of the nation’s population of 200,874, had contracted the disease. It killed 83 people. All but seven of them were younger than 15, and 61 were 4 or younger.

The Samoan vaccination rate for children had fallen from 74 percent in 2017 to just 34 percent in 2019.

In response to the epidemic, the government imposed restrictions far stricter than the COVID-19 lockdown and mandated vaccinations, driving the rate to 90 percent.

As the society and economy begin to reboot from COVID-19 restrictions, the Wolf administration should prepare a vigorous program, through public health clinics and an awareness campaign, to ensure that parents get their children’s vaccinations up to date.

* Guest editorial from The Scranton Times in Scranton, Pa.

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