Today, a group of more than 85 leading public health organizations announced the launch of a new national campaign called “Keep Up The Rates” to raise awareness about the importance of getting routine vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign, led by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), encourages all individuals to receive recommended vaccines that may have been delayed in recent months as the country responds to COVID-19.
“People of all ages have been sheltering in place, and many have not left their homes for routine medical care in several months,” said NFID Medical Director William Schaffner, MD. “Unfortunately, it’s impossible to get vaccinated from the comfort of your own couch. As a result, we have seen a troubling drop in routine immunization rates across all age groups in the US. We must reverse this trend now; otherwise, we could see outbreaks of dreaded vaccine-preventable diseases across the country, which would be a disaster, particularly during a pandemic.”
From measles and mumps to influenza (flu) and pneumonia, vaccines are one of the most important and effective public health tools to prevent a variety of serious diseases across the lifespan. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare professionals have rallied to develop innovative strategies to make vaccinations quick, easy, and safe—including setting up vaccine “clinics” in parking lots and scheduling separate office hours for vaccinations. Despite these efforts, studies have found that vaccine rates have dropped dramatically across all age groups during COVID-19, with demand plummeting as much as 95 percent for some vaccines.
“The Keep Up The Rates campaign aims to give healthcare professionals a ‘booster dose’ of energy to get all staff thinking about how to provide vaccinations safely, and to communicate this message to patients and the public: It is not only safe, but necessary to stay up-to-date on recommended vaccines,” said Dr. Schaffner.
While all communities are at risk due to declining vaccination rates, determinants of health such as transportation and access to care are especially challenging for some populations. “Disparities in vaccination rates between minority and non-minority populations that existed before COVID-19 have only been accentuated during the pandemic. This is an issue that affects all people, but some of our communities—including people of color, immigrants, and those who live in dense cities—are at even greater risk. That’s why it’s more important now than ever to stay current with recommended vaccination schedules,” said National Minority Quality Forum President and CEO Gary Puckrein, PhD.
As part of the campaign, the group has launched www.nfid.org/KeepUpTheRates to serve as a digital hub for sharing information and resources in support of this critical public health initiative. In addition, a shareable public service announcement video is available to encourage everyone to do their part in keeping up vaccination rates.
Immunization protects entire communities, including older adults who are at higher risk of complications from diseases including flu and pneumonia. Individuals who are not able to get vaccinated due to underlying health conditions rely on community immunity to protect them. If communities are not up-to-date on recommended vaccines, vulnerable populations are left at greater risk of exposure to serious infectious diseases.
“Many older adults remember what it was like before vaccines existed for serious infectious diseases like polio. They can play an influential role in their families and communities to debunk myths, and can make sure their own vaccinations are up to date,” said Susan Peschin, MHS, President & CEO of the Alliance for Aging Research. “No one should be afraid of visiting a doctor’s office to get their vaccinations—Hispanic and non-Hispanic populations alike. It’s on all of us to help decrease infectious diseases and keep others healthy,” added Elena Rios, MD, President & CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association.