Jan 13, 2022 - COVID

With focus on COVID, Ohio's other vaccinations lag

Ohio students with all required immunizations, by grade level
Data: Ohio Department of Health; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

While the public's focus shifts to COVID-19's Omicron surge, routine health care for Ohio's adolescents could be falling through the cracks.

What's happening: The number of teens receiving required childhood vaccines — the non-COVID ones — has nosedived during the pandemic, according to our review of Ohio Department of Health data.

  • That's likely due to a combination of overloaded health care systems and families foregoing yearly wellness checkups.

Why it matters: Keeping our population vaccinated ensures diseases that were once a threat, like measles, mumps and polio, remain all but eliminated.

Threat level: Columbus Public Health indefinitely suspended its non-COVID and non-flu vaccine clinics this week to prioritize those shots.

  • Other providers throughout the state are also strained, Melissa Wervey Arnold, CEO of the state's American Academy of Pediatrics chapter, tells Axios.
  • While vaccine rates seemed like they were finally starting to rebound, this latest surge could be detrimental to that progress, she says.

What they're saying: "We're concerned. But at the same time, we also understand shortages in staffing and that there are only so many resources to go around right now," Arnold says.

  • "Our hope is we can get through the next couple of weeks and … get back on track."
  • She's particularly worried about teens who aren't getting yearly checkups, while facing more mental health issues than ever before.

By the numbers: Ohio requires specific vaccines to enter kindergarten and grades 7 and 12, though families can file exemptions for medical and religious reasons and the state doesn't seem to be enforcing documentation

  • Grades 7 and 12 have been most impacted, both with a dip of about 10% between 2019-20 and 2020-21. The state's data is always a year behind.
  • The drop is even worse in Franklin County, which is 7% behind the state average.

The intrigue: The number of families filing exemptions has remained virtually unchanged throughout the past four school years and isn't to blame for the recent vaccination decline.

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