- Kaiser Family Foundation estimates nearly 1.5 million teachers (one in four) are at greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19.
- Child influenza vaccination rates have declined during the COVID-19 pandemic by an estimated 21.5% from January to April 2020.
- Anticipating the “double whammy” of influenza season and COVID-19, the CDC is giving $140 million to immunization programs.
- The national average rate of vaccinated children in the United States is 58%.
- During the coronavirus pandemic, New York City saw vaccination rates drop 63% — 91% for kids older than two.
- Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut have the highest rates of vaccinated children. Wyoming, Florida and Utah have the lowest rates.
Elevated risks of reopening schools during a pandemic
The back-to-school-during-a-pandemic debate is a polarizing issue among Americans. President Trump has called for schools to open, while many health experts are advising against opening. The primary argument against opening schools is the safety of students and faculty from contracting COVID-19. Kaiser Family Foundation estimates nearly 1.5 million teachers (one in four) are at greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19. Teachers and faculty with preexisting conditions like diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and asthma are at greater health risk. Putting millions of teachers and faculty in a high-risk place like schools could be dangerous exposure for more than just the children. With the pandemic in the front view, what may be overlooked this back-to-school season is the seasonal flu. Described as what could be a double-whammy health risk, influenza adds another layer of risk for schools opening.
In a moderate year for influenza, the CDC estimates over 35 million cases of influenza and 490,000 hospitalizations. Paired with growing cases of COVID-19 among younger people, the risk of sending kids back to school could become amplified. COVID-19 has already made access to influenza vaccinations difficult for many children. It’s estimated that from January to April, child flu vaccine doses decreased by 21.5%. Without regular doctor visits during the pandemic, children are less likely to receive the flu shot heading into the school year. New York City saw vaccination rates drop 91% for kids older than two during the pandemic. With limited access to a safe place to receive a flu shot, vaccination among kids going back to school will be significantly lower than previous years. This year, the CDC will give over $140 million to support immunization programs. The CDC is aware of the elevated risk and is getting in front of it with its support of immunization programs, but vaccination rates among children are still expected to shrink.
In the United States, the average rate of children receiving an influenza vaccination is 58%. In states like Wyoming, Florida and Utah, child influenza vaccination rates are under 50%. With already-low vaccination rates among children, we can expect much lower figures heading into the school year. As a major driver in the spread of influenza, children should be a high-priority demographic to receive the flu shot. As child vaccination rates are on the decline, the chances of a strong flu season are more likely. A moderate flu season sees over 490,000 hospitalizations. An increase in flu hospitalizations paired with COVID-19 related hospitalizations we could see hospital capacity overwhelmed. Reports from Florida say over 40 hospitals in the state have reached capacity due to new COVID-19 cases. Sending kids back to school could have far-reaching consequences beyond just their safety. As kids go back to school and become likely transmitters of the flu and COVID-19, it’s the families and healthcare systems that bear the burden.
Child flu vaccination rate by state
Rankings are shown in order of states with the lowest child vaccinations rates to states with the highest child flu vaccinations
QuoteWizard compiled American Academy of Pediatrics data on child influenza vaccination rates for each state in 2017. Final rankings are based on states that have lowest to highest child vaccination rates.