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.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Columbus.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Columbus stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Columbus.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more