The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) has seen an alarming decline in the number of immunizations administered by providers enrolled in the WDH Immunization Unit’s Vaccines for Children (VFC) and Wyoming Vaccinates Important People (WyVIP) programs since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.
Data obtained from the Wyoming Immunization Registry (WyIR) shows Wyoming providers administered 42 percent fewer immunizations in April of this year when compared to April of last year. Reporting to the WyIR is required in Wyoming. The total number of vaccine doses ordered by these providers dropped about 25 percent in Wyoming for April of this year compared to April of last year. The vast majority of Wyoming providers offering immunizations for children order the vaccines through WDH.
“It appears the pandemic’s uncertainty and challenges have resulted in the postponement of routine well-child visits, which typically include immunizations,” said Jude Alden, Immunization Unit manager with WDH. “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.”
Alden noted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published data earlier this month confirming the trend of lower vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic is being experienced nationwide and not just in Wyoming.
Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, said she 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. “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;
· Scheduling well visits and sick visits separately;
· 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.
Wyoming’s public vaccine programs, which are available at participating provider offices, help protect eligible adults and children from vaccine-preventable diseases at little to no cost. For more information about Wyoming’s public vaccine program eligibility, mandatory reporting or accessing the WyIR, contact the WDH Immunization Unit at (307) 777-7952 or visit www.immunizewyoming.com online.
For more information about COVID-19 from WDH, visit: https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/infectious-disease-epidemiology-unit/disease/novel-coronavirus/.