Teens and tweens – Catch up on vaccines!
Lock-downs to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic interfered with many of our usual activities. For children, that included attendance at school and wellness visits to the doctor.
Many teens and tweens missed out on routine vaccinations to protect them from vaccinepreventable diseases.1 And while social distancing measures helped prevent the spread of the virus, that isolation also meant fewer opportunities to develop natural immunity through exposure, creating another layer of vulnerability to common infections.2
Did your children miss some of their immunizations? If the answer is yes, you aren't alone. About 25% of young Canadians – or one in four – are not up to date with their routine immunizations, according to the Ontario Medical Association.1
Last fall, as we were emerging from pandemic restrictions, Dr. Sloane Freeman, a pediatrician at St. Michael's Hospital, told CBC news that Ontario is seeing "really, really low coverage" for the school-based immunization programs.3 And this reflects a decline from 2020 vaccination rates in several provinces across Canada, including Quebec.3,4
"As we move forward through the pandemic, we really have to focus on children maintaining and getting these routine immunizations that otherwise before we sort of took for granted," said Dr. Freeman.3
Polio is a case in point – after vaccination eliminated the virus in the Western hemisphere almost 30 years ago,5 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is investigating a possible polio outbreak in New York City.1 Concern was triggered in fall of 2022, when an unvaccinated New York man became paralyzed as a result of polio infection. Learn more from Vaccines News here.
Interrupted school vaccination programs may have left teens unvaccinated against several illnesses more likely to spread among young adults, such as meningococcal disease, hepatitis B, and human papillomavirus (HPV). Statistics show that the number of 12-year-olds in Ontario who normally would have been immunized against these three diseases dropped significantly in 2020-2021 compared with the 2019-2020 school year.4
While some vaccines are provided as a one-time dose, others such as hepatitis B and HPV-9 Gardasil® 9 require a 3-dose series – or 2 doses of HPV-9 for those who start the series between age 9 and 14 years. An interrupted series does not need to be restarted, but must be completed to provide maximum protection.6
Who missed out?
During the height of the pandemic, kids in Grades 7 and 8 who would normally have received their Hep B vaccinations at school missed out, leaving those born in 2006, 2007, or 2008 unprotected.6
Ditto for HPV vaccinations usually given in Grades 7 to 12 – kids born in 2002, 2003, or 2004 may have missed, or not completed, that important vaccine series.6 In fact, 70% of those who were around age 12 at the start of the pandemic received the first in the series of HPV vaccinations in 2019-2020, and only 20% received the remaining HPV vaccines during the following school year.1
And last but not least, it's important for the whole family to keep up on your COVID-19 protection – the vaccine can be given at the same time as other routine vaccinations.1
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This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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- Ontario’s doctors urge public to stay up to date on vaccinations for COVID-19 and flu
- Vaccine Preventable Diseases in a Post-COVID World
- What we know about why some kids are missing routine vaccinations
- Routine vaccination rates for children, teens in Canada dropped dramatically since start of COVID-19 pandemic
- 2022 NY Polio Case: Why and What Does It Mean?
- Guidance for Routine & Catch-Up Immunization Services