AUGUSTA — The Maine CDC greatly urges parents to continue to seek the administration of vaccines, especially to children, across the state, the organization’s director Dr. Nirav Shah noted during his May 13 press briefing in Augusta.
The point of vaccinations needing to continue, despite the pandemic, is a point Shah has continuously made in his press briefings.
“I ask everyone to make sure they and their family members are up to date on routine recommended vaccines,” Shah said. “That’s one of the best ways to make sure you’re protecting not just your family members, but other folks in your community who may elderly, who may have chronic health care conditions or who may be immunocompromised. As we talk about reopening, we want everyone to be in optimum health for when we start resuming that contact.”
Shah noted the need for this emphasis comes as preliminary data from the U.S. CDC — nationwide data — have shown sharp decreases in the numbers of vaccines ordered, and administered, to children across the United States.
“Here in Maine, looking at our own data from the Vaccines for Children Program, which is administered by the Maine CDC, we’ve seen some concerning signs on the horizon,” Shah said.
Distribution of vaccines to Maine children enrolled in the VFC program dropped 28 percent in March, compared to the year prior, and 45 percent in April, compared to the year prior. There are 350 providers in the program, Shah noted, and full vaccination data, including from providers not in the VFC program will not be available until approximately mid-July.
The sharp decreases is occurring, Shah said, because some parents may be reluctant to take their child in to a doctors office, potentially exposing their child to diseases such as COVID-19, during the pandemic.
“What I’d like to remind everyone about, is that the health care providers who care for kids dedicate their professional lives to the safety of children, and they are now finding new ways to ensuring the safety of children they see — your children — even during these challenging COVID-19 times,” Shah said.
Providers in Maine, Shah detailed, are doubling and tripling the amount of cleaning they are doing by sanitizing surfaces, and ensuring the office is as safe as possible. Providers are offering curbside vaccines and wellness visits for children. Other providers are providing wellness visits and vaccinations in the mornings while treating the ill during the afternoon.
The Maine CDC will be sending information to providers today to help them get kids back into the office and is working to provide tools to keep kids coming in for routine checkups
“As Maine reopens, there may be children who need to catch up on immunizations, and that will invariably increase the wait time for appointments,” Shah said. “While those children are waiting for those appointments, they could potentially be exposed to dangerous and preventable illnesses that may be circulating in our community, separate from COVID-19.”