(WHTM) — The March of Dimes says new numbers show that vaccination rates are becoming lower among kids who are uninsured, Black or Hispanic or living below the poverty level.
It’s a problem they want to fix — now.
In 2009, Serese Marotta’s life changed forever.
“I lost my healthy 5-year-old son Joseph to flu in 2009, so it’s really heartbreaking to see these immunization rates are going backwards,” Marotta said.
Since then, she’s made it her life’s mission to educate people about the importance of vaccines. For the past three decades, the progress in the U.S. had been strong, until now.
“Well the gaps in immunization coverage are putting many families and communities at risk for preventable diseases like measles, flu and pneumonia,” Marotta said.
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Dr. Zsakeba Henderson from the March of Dimes says the pandemic has widened the so-called vaccine gap, putting certain populations at higher risk. This can be based on their level of insurance, income and even their race.
“Both Black and Hispanic children were the least like to receive the recommended vaccines,” Dr. Henderson said.
Less than half of children with no insurance received the full series of recommended vaccines, and just 62% of kids living below poverty got the full series.
What’s more, Dr. Henderson says 40% of parents admit their kids missed routine vaccinations in 2020.
“People just not trusting our health care system and having hesitancy, not just against COVID-19 vaccination, but against vaccines in general,” Dr. Henderson said.
So they’re sounding the alarm, reminding parents about the importance of routine vaccinations. They’re also reminding everyone that, in most cases, they’re free.
It’s a message Marotta hopes people will take to heart, then take action.
“He was in kindergarten, he was a happy, healthy little boy who loved puzzles and games and Star Wars. And he was the joy of my life. And the fact that he’s not here anymore, I don’t want any other family to have to experience that,” Marotta said.
Dr. Henderson says it’s also important to remember vaccination starts during pregnancy, so expecting moms should make sure they are also current on their shots as well.