News Scan for Jan 21, 2021

Childhood vaccine uptake in US schoolkids
Global flu stays low

CDC: Vaccine uptake in US kindergartners remained high in 2019-20

New data published today in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) show routine vaccine uptake among kindergarteners across the United States during the 2019-20 school year was high, approximately 95%—but the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to bring that number down.

The data came from a national assessment of vaccine coverage among incoming kindergartners reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) annually. Only 2.5% of kindergartners had an exemption from at least one vaccine during the 2019-20 school year.

For the school year, national coverage was 94.9% for diphtheria and tetanus toxoids, and acellular pertussis; 95.2% for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR); and 94.8% for varicella vaccines. A total of 2.3% were not up to date for MMR and did not have a vaccine exemption. Both the exemption rate and vaccine uptake were similar to levels or the 2018-19 school year.

But the disruption of the pandemic will likely mean skipped routine doctor's visits, the authors said, and the transition to distance learning may mean parents opted out of the standard vaccination schedule.

"CDC expects that the COVID-19 pandemic has already reduced actual vaccination coverage of kindergarten-aged children through reduced appointment availability at providers' offices, parents delaying preventive health care visits, and other barriers to vaccination, and that those disruptions will reduce kindergarten vaccination coverage in the 2020–21 school year," the authors concluded. "In addition, schools in many states began the 2020–21 school year remotely and might not have enforced the usual vaccination policies."
Jan 22 MMWR study


Global flu detections remain mainly sporadic, mainly flu B

Flu activity across the globe remained at lower levels than expected for this time of year, though some countries in the Northern Hemisphere have reported sporadic cases of influenza A and B, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in its latest regular update, which roughly covers the last half of December and into the first days of January.

In its report, the WHO included caveats that COVID-19 measures are likely affecting the circulation of flu and that increased efforts have been under way to test for flu.

Haiti reported increased flu activity in the past few weeks, and some flu activity continues in West Africa. Countries in South Asia have reported sporadic cases.

Of nearly 201,000 respiratory specimens tested at WHO-affiliated labs from Dec 21 to Jan 3, only 409 were positive for flu. Of those, 70.4% were influenza B and 29.6% were influenza A. Of the subtyped influenza A samples, 54.3% were 2009 H1N1 viruses and 45.7% were H3N2.
Jan 20 WHO global flu update

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