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Pediatricians warn that COVID-19 fears are causing immunization rates to plummet

HOUSTON – Pediatricians are sounding the alarm about a concerning side effect of the coronavirus. They say immunization rates have plunged since the start of the pandemic.

Houston mom Kristin Kubala said she’s always been a proponent of childhood vaccinations but with a 1-year-old and another on the way, she admits having hesitation about going to the pediatrician’s office.

“Mostly because the particular vaccine my son was getting was a second-round” Kubala said, explaining her thoughts behind wanting to delay getting her baby immunized.

Since she said her family has been social distancing and handwashing, she thought that could protect them from most viruses.

It’s a good start, but not that simple, according to Dr. John Butler, an infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hermann in Sugar Land.

“We don’t need any additional outbreaks to deal with,” Butler said. “We’re talking about mumps, measles, chickenpox, pertussis. All these are vaccine-preventable.”

Texas children fall lower than the national average on Polio, Hepatitis B and even flu shots, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, .

Can you imagine getting the flu during a pandemic?

You don't want to, said Dr. Butler.

“Either of these would just be catastrophic as we’re trying to deal with COVID-19,” Butler said.

Explain your concerns to your doctor

Kubala said, in the end, she took her son to the doctor because she expressed concerns over the phone and they were able to promise to keep her family safe while there.

“Once we found out and once we became more comfortable with, help preventing us and my son from getting COVID, then we felt more comfortable going to the pediatrician,” she said.

Texas vaccination rates

Texas children fall short on vaccines compared to other kids across the country, state data reveals.

However, according to data from children born in Houston in 2015 and 2016, they are above the national rate for vaccine coverage at 73.7%.