The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Reports Steep Decline in Childhood Vaccinations Due to COVID-19 Pandemic; Philadelphia region sees better results

Decrease in key vaccinations puts community protection at risk

Philadelphia — December 7, 2020 —  Millions of children have missed routine vaccinations this year, causing a precipitous drop in immunizations that threatens to leave communities throughout the U.S. at risk of losing protection against highly contagious diseases, including measles, whooping cough and polio, according to new data from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). However, unlike these national trends, among its membership Independence Blue Cross (Independence) saw increases generally of six to seven percentage points in vaccination rates for primary childhood vaccinations (Diphtheria, Tetanus, & Whooping Cough, Measles, Mumps, & Rubella and Polio) from September 2019 to September 2020.

“Here in our region we’re extremely pleased that parents, caretakers, and pediatricians are making sure that children are keeping up with their regular wellness visits and crucial vaccinations. We’ve seen many pediatricians divide their office hours to see sick children separately from well children to help ease concerns about COVID-19,” said Dr. Richard Snyder, EVP and chief medical officer at Independence.

“We’ve supported the efforts of our health care community during this pandemic by making it a priority to educate the community through advertising, social media, and more about not skipping necessary preventive care, such as cancer screenings, flu shots and vaccinations. We covered telemedicine for well visits, where pediatricians could remind parents about vaccines and discuss any concerns they might have,” Dr. Snyder continued.

“We’ve worked very hard this year to keep our immunization rates up and overall, we’ve been successful,” said Dr. William McNett, division chief for Nemours duPont Pediatrics in Pennsylvania. “For example, at the start of the pandemic we set up outside tents for immunizations to help parents feel safe about bringing their infants, our most vulnerable patients, for their vaccinations. Later, we were able open it up for older kids so our patients wouldn’t fall behind in their shots.”

According to the report, as the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Americans to postpone or avoid receiving routine medical care, children are on track to miss an estimated 9 million vaccination doses in 2020, a decrease of up to 26% in childhood vaccination doses compared to 2019.

Global public health officials already are warning of a sharp increase in the number of new measles infections and deaths, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization and UNIFCEF saying that urgent action is needed to avert major measles and polio epidemics.

The new BCBSA vaccine data, based on medical claims from millions of Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) members, provides clear evidence that the United States is at risk of widespread outbreaks of preventable disease. If current trends continue, the U.S. would fall dangerously below the vaccination levels for measles and whooping cough that the CDC says are needed to protect community health.

According to the new BCBSA data, 40% of parents and legal guardians say their children missed vaccinations due to the pandemic. The majority of vaccination postponements occurred during two key time periods. The first was in March through May, when the pandemic was first taking hold. Then, in August, the typical spike in back-to-school vaccinations largely failed to occur because of the pandemic’s impact and the shift to virtual schooling options in districts across the country.

Below is a table that highlights trends in rates for key vaccinations against benchmarks the CDC has established for community protection:

Vaccination BCBS 2020 Estimated Vaccination Rate BCBS % Decrease from 2019 CDC Herd Immunity Requirements BCBS 2020 Estimated Vaccination Rate vs. CDC Herd Immunity Requirements
Measles 88.2% -26% 93.0% -4.8
Whooping Cough 79.3% -26% 92.0% -12.7
Polio 88.9% -16% 86.0% +2.9

The findings come from a new BCBSA analysis of member claims data, which examined vaccination doses delivered from January to September 2020, compared to the same time period in 2019.

Independence 2019 HMO Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) vaccination rates were 92.7% for measles, mumps and rubella; 91.1% for TDAP (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough); and 93.5% polio. Despite the pandemic, as of September 2020, Independence was ahead of its 2019 vaccination rates.

About Independence Blue Cross
Independence Blue Cross is the leading health insurance organization in southeastern Pennsylvania. With our affiliates, we serve 8 million people nationwide. For more than 80 years, we have been enhancing the health and well-being of the people and communities we serve. We deliver innovative and competitively priced health care products and services; pioneer new ways to reward doctors, hospitals, and other health care professionals for coordinated, quality care; and support programs and events that promote wellness. To learn more, visit ibx.com. Connect with us on Facebook at facebook.com/ibx and on Twitter at @ibx. Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

About Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide health care coverage for one in three Americans. BCBSA provides health care insights through The Health of America Report series and the national BCBS Health IndexSM. For more information on BCBSA and its member companies, please visit BCBS.com. We also encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube and follow us on Twitter.

Media Contact:
Ruth Stoolman
215-667-9537 (cell)
Ruth.Stoolman@ibx.com