Pediatricians are concerned that many children remain behind in their vaccines amid the COVID-19 pandemic and urge families to schedule their appointments to catch up.
The America Academy of Pediatrics describes the 2021 childhood and adolescent immunization schedule released by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention as taking on new urgency as the COVID-19 pandemic barrels into its second year.
The AAP policy statement, “Recommended Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Schedule: United States, 2021," describes the timetable for administering vaccinations during stages of a child's development that have proven to be safe and effective at preventing specific diseases.
Time to catch up
Since the start of the pandemic, a significant number of parents postponed their children's vaccinations for highly contagious, preventable illnesses like measles, mumps and polio.
“Parents have the power to protect their children, themselves and their families," said AAP President Dr. Lee Savio Beers. “While there is not yet a COVID-19 vaccine that has been approved for children, there are vaccines that prevent against other deadly diseases. These diseases have not gone away during the pandemic, and so it is very important that children stay up to date on all their immunizations, in partnership with their pediatrician."
The 2021 immunization schedules include recommended vaccines from birth through age 18 years, as well as a catch-up immunization schedule for those ages 4 months through 18 years who start late or are more than one month behind the recommended age for vaccine administration. This year's schedules contain minor updates, along with a box within the notes section that states that use of COVID-19 vaccines are recommended within the scope of the Emergency Use Authorization or Biologics License Application.
What about the COVID-19 vaccine?
A COVID-19 vaccine for children under age 16 is not yet available. Pharmaceutical companies have just begun enrolling younger children in clinical trials to evaluate safety, and currently the trials include only children 12 and older.
The 2021 immunization schedules for children and teens also include:
A turning point
"We're at a real turning point with this virus, as a vaccine becomes available to adults," Dr. Beers said. “Families, students and staff need to remain vigilant and continue to wear cloth face masks and physically distance when in public. These are all actions we can take to decrease the spread of the COVID-19." Beginning in March 2020, there was a dramatic drop in children's well visits and routine vaccines administered, research has shown. A recent Blue Cross Blue Shield
analysis found a 26% drop in vaccine doses in 2020. Forty percent of parents surveyed by Blue Cross said their children missed shots because of COVID-19.
The 2021 recommended childhood and adolescent immunization schedules have been approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), and National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP).
“Pediatricians want to see your children, and have made accommodations to keep families safe," Dr. Beers said. “As schools and communities open back up, children will need the protection that vaccinations give them."