The decrease does not sound very alarming, but according to Jeanne-Marie Hament, program manager for national vaccinations at RIVM, it is certainly important to raise the vaccination rate again. “We would rather see it rise than fall. For example, look at measles. This requires a coverage ratio of 95% according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the Netherlands we are now at 92%.”
Measles seems harmless at first, but when many children get it, according to Hament, there are often deaths among them. “We were well on our way in recent years to get measles out of the world, but because many vaccination programs worldwide have stopped during the corona pandemic, we are seeing diseases, including measles, return.”
Also polio back
Polio is another example of a disease that returns. Not yet in the Netherlands, but in Ukraine, Africa and the Middle East. “Actually, there are no limits for infectious diseases. Although it is of course important that every country has its vaccination program in order,” says Hament.
The corona pandemic has had an impact on the regular vaccination program. “Group vaccinations have been postponed and people often couldn’t come because they were quarantined at home. As a result, vaccination appointments have been missed. But even if the vaccinations that were given a little later than usual are included, the vaccination coverage for most vaccinations is still slightly lower than a year earlier. For babies up to 2 years old, the difference is still about 1 percentage point. For older children this is 1-2 percentage points.
Many more questions
At the same time, youth doctors at the GGDs have noticed that there have been many more questions about vaccinations since the corona pandemic. “Parents come in several times for vaccinations from the time their child is a few weeks old until high school. Before corona I hardly got any questions about it. That’s really different now. Parents are full of questions,” says Roselin van der Torren, youth doctor at GGD Hollands Midden in Katwijk.
Van der Torren applauds the questions. “The more questions the better. Then we can properly inform parents.” Many questions are corona-related. “Parents want to know whether the vaccinations have anything to do with corona. There is a lot of resistance to that. There is a lot of mistrust,” she notes. “Fortunately, we can often reassure parents and decide to have their child vaccinated.”
The neighborhoods in
At the AJN Association of Youth Doctors, they consider the declining vaccination rate a sign that ‘everything needs to be pulled out’. “During the pandemic, there has been a backlog of vaccination programs in the world. Now we are going to travel again. And that increases the risk of disease outbreaks again. We are certainly concerned about that,” says Astrid Nielen, chairman of the AJN. She thinks it is important to apply more customization. “We cannot sit back and wait until parents come to us with their child. We are going into neighborhoods where the vaccination rate is even lower, such as in certain cities and in the bible belt, so that we can inform people more specifically and start a conversation with them about voluntary vaccinations.”