Merck – Silent Consequences of COVID-19: Why It’s Critical to Recover Routine Vaccination Rates Through Equitable Vaccine Policies & Practices

BP2C’s Business Advisory Council member Merck amplified the need for evidence-based and innovative strategies to recover and sustain routine vaccination in their recent article, “Silent Consequences of COVID-19: Why It’s Critical to Recover Routine Vaccination Rates Through Equitable Vaccine Policy and Practices” published in the Annals of Family Medicine. Short- and long-term measures leveraging existing best practice and new learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic are highlighted to encourage collective action and develop a resilient immunization ecosystem.

In the United States, routine vaccination rates have plummeted across all age groups due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with our most vulnerable and underserved populations suffering the greatest declines. Returning to a “new normal” and recovering our nation’s health and economy is of the utmost importance; however, there is a critical need to recover and protect communities against the spread of other vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks. While routine vaccination rates are slowly recovering for certain age groups, the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines adds complexities and challenges to recovery efforts. If not addressed, hard-won gains in routine vaccination may be lost, which could result in communities missing out on the social, economic, and health benefits offered by vaccinations.

There is an urgent need to utilize evidence-based and innovative strategies to support both immediate and long-term efforts to recover, maintain, and sustain routine vaccination. Key short-term strategies include leveraging digital and mainstream media to drive awareness, coordinating across health and education sectors, utilizing centralized reminder recall, expanding access points to vaccination services, and elevating trusted voices for vaccination. In order to build back stronger, long-term strategies include enhancing immunization information systems, mitigating financial barriers to vaccination, investing in building vaccine confidence, and ensuring sustainable funding for immunization infrastructure.