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New data shared by Trump Administration reveals a drop in childhood vaccination rates and doctors’ visits for preventive care as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
A new release from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) found that beneficiaries age 18 and under that are enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP had relatively low treatment rates due to COVID-19. Although over 250,000 youth enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP were tested for COVID-19 through June, only 32,000 received treatment and less than 1,000 were hospitalized through the end of May.
Data also revealed that while enrollment numbers were up during the pandemic, a decline in service maintained. According to CMS, compared to data from the same time period last year, 2020 records show that 1.7 million or 22% fewer vaccinations were given to beneficiaries up to age two. 3.2 million or 44% fewer child screening services were issued, while 6.9 million or 44% fewer outpatient mental health services after accounting for increased telehealth services were used. There was also a 7.6 million or 69% decrease in dental visits.
The vaccines included were DTaP, Polio, MMR, Hepatitis B, Hib, Pneumococcal conjugate, Chickenpox, Hepatitis A, and Rotavirus. CMS issued a response to the decrease hoping to bring the numbers back up.
“CMS is committed to working with our state partners to help close these gaps in Medicaid and CHIP children’s healthcare, and we will continue to monitor both the direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19 on the Medicaid and CHIP populations using TAF data,” the release said.
A CMS official stressed the importance of the vaccinations and preventative care to The Hill.
“As a mother, I have witnessed firsthand how important early and regular access to screening and medical care is for children’s development,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement to the outlet.
“The absence of these vital health care services may have lifelong consequences for these vulnerable children, and I call on states, pediatric providers, families, and schools to ensure children catch up on overdue medical, behavioral health and dental appointments as well as childhood immunizations,” she added.
It is required by all 50 states, and the District Of Columbia, for minors to receive certain vaccinations before attending school, however, there are exceptions. Pew Research Center reports every state, and Washington DC, allows children to forego vaccinations for medical reasons.
As of 2016, 46 states allow religious exemptions and 17 states allow parents to claim personal or moral grounds. According to The Hill, the United States experienced one of the largest measles outbreaks in decades last year. The illness was caught and spread by adults and children who had not been vaccinated.
The decline in childhood vaccinations could signify an apprehensive approach to a potential vaccine for COVID-19. Science Magazine found as few as 50% of people in the United States overall are committed to receiving a vaccine. Although the coronavirus pandemic is hitting Black communities harder, 40% of African-Americans said they wouldn’t get a vaccine in a mid-May poll.
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