Among the many important health services that have been delayed during the Covid-19 pandemic, add vaccinations to the list. Child vaccination rates fall early in the pandemic, and haven’t yet caught up, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) warned on Wednesday.

Between March and May, vaccination rates for Medicaid and CHIP patients up to age two fell 22% compared to the same period in 2019, according to CMS data. In total, the vaccination rate per 1,000 patients fell from 700 in January to about 460 in May, raising concerns about the potential spread of measles, mumps and other preventable diseases.

Vaccination rates are starting to increase, CMS said, but not enough to make up for the dip early in the year.

“To ensure that children catch up on their missed vaccines we need vaccination rates to not only approach those of 2019, but to be much higher,” the agency stated.

Rates for other children’s health services also fell during the pandemic. For example, annual health screenings were down 44% between March and May. Dental services fell precipitously, down 69%, though they began to rebound in May.

Finally, mental health services for children were down 44% in the same period, even with the use of telehealth visits.

“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,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a news release.

Photo credit: User7565abab_575, Getty Images

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