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Washington Report: AAP advocates for catch-up vaccinations, strengthening VFC program, and more

September 1, 2021

Report: 11 million missed childhood immunizations during pandemic

A report from the AAP and the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families shows a drastic drop in routine childhood immunizations during the COVID-19 pandemic (https://bit.ly/3rWwtKd).

Eleven million routine childhood vaccines were missed, putting children at risk of preventable diseases like the measles, whooping cough and mumps, according to the report Urgent Action Needed to Catch Up on Routine Childhood Vaccinations.

“Without an intentional effort to get childhood vaccines on track, the risk of a secondary outbreak from a preventable infectious disease on top of the current pandemic remains high,” AAP President Lee Savio Beers, M.D., FAAP, said in a press release.

The report outlined recommendations to address this alarming trend. Among them are  public education campaigns that are coordinated by state and local health departments, schools and other partners that highlight vaccine safety and effectiveness and the need for children to get caught up on missed immunizations.

Policymakers also have a critical role to play in strengthening and improving the federal Vaccines for Children (VFC) program so it can reach more children and adolescents. The VFC program provides vaccines for half of all American children.

Bill to strengthen VFC program advances

Legislation was introduced earlier this year to strengthen the VFC program, and it made important progress in the U.S. House of Representatives before Congress’ August recess.

The bipartisan, AAP-endorsed Strengthening the Vaccines for Children Program Act of 2021 was introduced by U.S. Reps. Kim Schrier, M.D., FAAP (D-Wash.), John Joyce, M.D. (R-Pa.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) and David McKinley (R-W.Va.).

The legislation would help ensure children can receive vaccinations in their medical home without their families facing financial or administrative barriers. It includes permanent fixes such as allowing Medicaid to pay for the additional education and counseling costs incurred when administering multicomponent vaccines.

At press time, the legislation awaited consideration by the full chamber after advancing out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Academy is calling on the House to swiftly advance the bill, and it was recently introduced in the Senate by Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).

The Strengthening the Vaccines for Children Program Act of 2021 was the topic of this year’s AAP Advocacy Conference. More than 720 pediatricians attended virtual meetings with their congressional offices to urge lawmakers to support the bill.

AAP, health groups urge COVID-19 vaccine requirement for health care workers

The Academy recently joined more than 50 health and medical groups advocating that all health care and long-term care employers require their employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“As the health care community leads the way in requiring vaccines for our employees, we hope all other employers across the country will follow our lead and implement effective policies to encourage vaccination,” said the groups, including the American Medical Association and American College of Physicians. “The health and safety of U.S. workers, families, communities, and the nation depends on it.”

The call came in light of the spread of highly contagious variants, including the delta variant, and the number of unvaccinated people in the United States. COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths also were on the rise.

The joint statement was widely covered by national news outlets, including CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

“Vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of
stringent public health measures,” the statement noted.

Advocacy snapshot: COVID-19 vaccinations for children

The AAP is undertaking extensive efforts to prioritize COVID-19 vaccination among children and adolescents. Here's a snapshot of a few of those advocacy efforts, all taking place over 24-hour period in August.

The Academy called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to move swiftly on clinical trials in children under age 12 as soon as possible. In a letter to FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D., the Academy urged the agency to continue working aggressively toward authorizing safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for children in this age range.

“Pediatricians and the families they care for have been anxiously awaiting a vaccine that can be used in children 11 years of age and younger, and especially so now given the rise of the hyper infectious Delta variant,” the letter stated.

The letter came on the heels of the largest week-over-week percentage increase in pediatric COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.

On the same day, the Academy announced new actions as part of White House efforts focused on adolescent COVID-19 vaccinations. These announcements included a joint effort with leading sports and medical organizations to encourage COVID-19 vaccine conversations as part of all preparticipation exams as well as collaboration with the national Parent Teacher Association to educate communities about the importance of the vaccine.

To receive advocacy emails on COVID-19 and other updates, send your name, email address and AAP ID to kids1st@aap.org.

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