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Measles resurgence? School nurse worries missed vaccinations could lead to next pandemic

Local schools are seeing an increase in missed childhood vaccinations

ST. LOUIS — Alarming data from a Blue Cross Blue Shield analysis discovered 9 million childhood vaccinations were missed in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is impacting St. Louis area schools and one school nurse worries we could see new outbreaks of measles and whooping cough.

“The thought that these other diseases could start making a comeback is very concerning," said Katherine Park. Park has been a Parkway school nurse for 18 years and is currently interim health services director.

“Now is not the time to be putting off any vaccinations. The longer that is delayed, the more chance that not only a child could become ill with measles, they can also spread it to others. That could become our next new pandemic in the future,” Park said.

The Parkway School District and many others in our area have seen an increase in missed childhood vaccinations.

Take a look at the information provided to 5 On Your Side from Parkway, Collinsville and SLPS on their current vaccine non-compliance. In a normal school year, districts are close to 0% non-compliance, excluding those who are exempt for religious or medical reasons.

RELATED: Pediatricians on alert: Childhood vaccinations decline at alarming rate

This Blue Cross Blue Shield analysis found a 26% decrease in the measles and whooping cough vaccinations among its participants. They found a 16% drop for polio vaccinations.

Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Jason Newland said he was on a call with the CDC back in May of 2020 when they first noticed an increase in missed childhood vaccinations.

“If we don't address it now, we are setting ourselves up for potential measles outbreaks that can be quite difficult to manage in a group of people,” Dr. Newland said.

Dr. Newland said on the call with the CDC they assumed that those missed vaccinations would be caught up by the start of the school year, but 5 On Your Side has learned the issue has continued.

The concern now is undoing all the progress we've already made.

“I feel like we've gotten a lot of diseases under control over the years because of vaccinations, but what we don't want to see is that start to go backwards," explained Park.

Many school districts plan to continue offering virtual learning so these students who are not vaccinated can continue to learn from home.

We asked Dr. Newland about the measles vaccine and if adults need a booster to prevent catching it. His answer was no. If you and your children have been vaccinated for these diseases, you are protected. The measles vaccine is 95% effective.

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