May 8 (UPI) -- Pediatric vaccination against measles has declined by as much as 60 percent nationally since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The reduced number of vaccine doses ordered and administered under the agency's pediatric vaccines program could leave young people vulnerable to measles after coronavirus-caused social distancing restrictions are lifted, CDC said in the report.
Currently, the CDC recommends that children receive two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccine, with the first dose given at 12 to 15 months old and the second at ages 4 to 6. Teens and adults also should be current on their MMR vaccination, the agency said.
The CDC's Vaccines for Children program is a federally funded program that provides vaccines to about half of U.S. children. Since it started in 1994, the program has prevented an estimated 419 million infections in them, CDC said.
Typically, about 40 million children receive two doses of the MMR vaccine in a given year. However, those numbers are likely to drop for 2020, based on the new CDC figures.
Since the beginning of the year through April 19, healthcare providers in the vaccine program have ordered 400,000 fewer MMR doses compared with the same period a year ago.
The decrease has been particularly significant since the Trump administration declared a national emergency because of COVID-19 on March 13, the agency said.
Providers also have administered substantially fewer doses of the vaccine since that date, the CDC said.
Daily doses dispensed to children 2 years old and younger dropped from approximately 2,000 in early March to just over 1,000 in late April, agency figures indicate. Those given to young people between ages 2 and 18 fell from roughly 2,200 to fewer than 500.