Doctor stresses catching up during World Immunization Week

Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 12:10 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The World Health Organization recognizes World Immunization Week during the last week in April and one local doctor is using it to remind people about the use of vaccines in public health.

During her virtual public health update Tuesday, Dr. Cynthia Morrow said vaccines are one of the most important public health tools we’ve ever had. The leader of the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts said she encourages people to get up to date on their vaccines, which they may have put off during the pandemic.

While Dr. Morrow said local rates for childhood vaccination have not been updated, the state has been keeping track. Data from public and private kindergarten classrooms were reporting a downward trend in immunizations even prior to the pandemic.

Additionally, Dr. Morrow said a new report by the CDC addressed vaccination coverage with selected vaccines and exemption rates among children in kindergarten for the 2020-2021 school year.

That report finds that nationwide, vaccination coverage went down by about a percentage point for all vaccines compared with the previous school year.

The report states, “Although 2.2% of kindergartners had an exemption from at least one vaccine, an additional 3.9% who did not have a vaccine exemption were not up to date for MMR. The COVID-19 pandemic affected schools’ vaccination requirement and provisional enrollment policies, documentation, and assessment activities. As schools continue to return to in-person learning, enforcement of vaccination policies and follow-up with undervaccinated students are important to improve vaccination coverage.”

Since the local Hepatitis A outbreak identified in the district at the start of the year, Dr. Morrow’s team has helped vaccinate more than 750 people against Hep A.

”It’s not only beneficial to the individual but it’s beneficial to the family and to the community when we optimize our vaccination rates,” Morrow said. “And Hepatitis A is a great example of that. Hepatitis A is a vaccine preventable disease.”

Dr. Morrow said the health districts have seen more than 50 cases of Hep A, mostly among intravenous drug users.

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