Doctors urge parents to act as Central Florida childhood immunization rates plummet

Childhood immunizations are down at an alarming rate. Some experts fear that without a change, more life-threatening diseases could arise.

Statewide the immunization rates for children under the age of two had been strong for years. In 2021 the percentage dropped to 79.3% – a significant change from a year earlier at 93.4% and well below the state’s annual goal of 90% immunity. 

"It’s very alarming and kind of disappointing but also expected," said Dr. Alan Smith, Chief Medical Officer of Sunshine Health. 

Health professionals agree that the pandemic is the main driver in the significant drop because most parents couldn’t or were hesitant to expose their children to the public, including taking them to the doctor.

"Now they can go back and go to the pediatrician’s office, feel more comfortable about it and the parents can feel more assured," said Dr. Smith. 

The World Health Organization estimates 23 million children around the globe under the age of one did not receive their basic immunizations.

Orange County saw the worst change in Central Florida for children under two years old, dropping from 99.2% vaccinated to just 65%. 

Local pediatrician Dr. Candice Jones said she and others have been sounding the alarm on immunizations as they witnessed the decline. She said those routine appointments are essential for not only immunizations but also for child growth and development. 

"There is something called a catch-up schedule so if you have gotten off or you haven’t been in a while that’s OK. We know why. Come back and get caught up and get your child checked out," said Dr. Jones. 

The Florida Health Department in Orange County reminds parents with children in school to make sure their child is up to date on their vaccinations as the school year is less than a month away.

"Seek out your healthcare provider and get those appointments all set so you get your students vaccinated," said Kent Donahue of the Florida Department of Health. 

For the complete list of basic immunizations required for schooling in Florida click here. You can also call your school to check the status of your child. 

If you are an Orange County resident needing help to schedule an appointment call the Florida Department of Health of Orange County at 407-723-5004 to set one up. 

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