MIAMI (CBSMiami) – While there has been a lot of attention surrounding the COVID vaccine, health officials want to remind parents about other immunizations.

An immunization report from the Florida Department of Health shows lagging vaccine numbers, particularly in Broward county, for two-year-olds.

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In the last year, the vaccination coverage for this age dropped in Broward by about 50%—going from 94% in 2020 to 44% in 2021. 

“It’s not just in South Florida. It’s actually worldwide the immunization rate has gone down,” says Dr. Ankush Bansal, a Fellow of American College of Preventive Medicine.

In the report, the Florida Department of Health says statewide, vaccine coverage for 2-year old-children decreased by, what they referred to as, an “alarming” 14 percentage points since 2020, from 93 to 79%. 

The statewide target is 90%, so Florida went from being above that to well below it.

“I think part of the reason is people haven’t been going to their doctor’s office over the last year and a half because of COVID,” says Dr. Bansal. “A lot of people, rightfully so, have been afraid to venture outside.”

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“We’ve also, of course, seen the anti-vaccine sentiment rise, and that’s kind of spread throughout Florida, the U.S. and throughout the world,” he continues. “So I think all of these factors plant why immunization rates are down.”

The vaccine series for this age includes four doses of DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) three doses of polio, and at least one dose of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella.)

“The reason that measles is so important, especially in children, is that in severe cases it can lead to blindness,” says Dr. Bansal. “It can lead to something called encephalitis, which is an infection in the brain, brain damage, as well as other less severe, but quite debilitating, conditions.”

He encourages parents to remember these check-ups and routine appointments. For anyone with questions, he says people should speak to their doctor or learn more from the College of Preventative Medicine here.

The report was based on children who get vaccinated at the various community health departments.

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Interestingly, Miami-Dade vaccine coverage in children actually went up from 97% in 2020 to 100% in 2021. Dr. Bansal says it’s unclear the reason for the difference.

Karli Barnett