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Fewer people getting needed vaccinations during COVID outbreak

While many people are concerned with their health and the threat of COVID-19, local health officials say it is important to be prepared for other possible health threats by keeping vaccinations up to date.

Johnna Callebs, a registered nurse with the Bell County Health Department, said they are busy trying to get children vaccinated as they prepare for the start of school.

“We’ve actually had a decline in the number of people coming in, and they’re not keeping up their appointments. With COVID-19, they’ve been kind of afraid to get their kids out, but with schools starting back and daycares starting back up, we need to get these kids immunized so we don’t have an increase in things like measles, mumps, chickenpox and things like that. I do hope we don’t see a rise in things like measles because of parents being afraid to get out and bring their kids in.”

Callebs said she did not know percentages, but numbers for vaccinations have seen a decline at the health department.

“There has been a great decline in people coming in and getting their shots. We’ve been doing most of our WIC appointments over the phone, and a lot of time, when they could come in for their WIC, that would be when we would catch them up on their shots,” she said.

Vaccinations are important for all ages, and Callebs said young and old alike need to be protected.

For children, she said infants who will be going to daycare will need to be caught up on vaccinations, while those preparing to head to kindergarten need to have their four-year-old shots. Also, 11-year-old shots are important for other children, according to Callebs.

Anyone, but especially the elderly, should receive their Tdap, or Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis vaccinations. Callebs said the Tdap vaccination is free to anyone and no insurance is required.

Callebs said Pertussis, which is also known as whooping cough, has been on the rise in recent years. She said the elderly, especially those who already have respiratory problems, should be certain to get the Tdap vaccination, as well as anyone who may be expecting a baby in the family and plans to be around the child. She added that the Tdap vaccination is good for 10 years and anyone who has not had it within that time frame should consider getting it.

September is when the health department normally begins providing flu vaccinations, and Callebs said she expects the number of people getting that shot to increase with the additional threat of COVID-19.

“I think we will have more people coming out to get it and more people trying to get their kids vaccinated this year,” she said. “Our elderly population has always taken flu shots, and that’s what we usually run out of, especially with the 65 and older. But I do think we’ll see an increase for the flu vaccine for our younger population this year, and I hope that we do.”

For more information on vaccinations, contact the Bell County Health Department at 606-337-7046.