The March of Dimes today launched a national campaign to close the gap on routine immunization in the United States, citing ongoing health disparities made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For more than 80 years, we have led the fight for the health of all moms and babies, and our work started with the fight against polio and funding for the polio vaccine,” said Stacey D. Stewart, President and CEO of March of Dimes. “Today, our programs focus on addressing health equity in the ongoing fight for healthy moms and strong babies—and vaccines are a critical part of that mission.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), vaccination has greatly reduced the burden of infectious disease globally. Vaccines help protect individuals by direct immunization and can protect unvaccinated individuals through community protection or herd immunity. Vaccination has also been highlighted as one of the main reasons for reducing health disparities both within and across countries in the last century, though differences in vaccination rates still persist.
Despite progress over the last three decades, immunization rates for childhood vaccines still vary by race and ethnicity, poverty level, and insurance status. CDC data show most childhood vaccine rates are lower among kids who are uninsured, Black, Hispanic, or living below the poverty level than among those who are privately insured, White, or living at or above the poverty level.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the vaccine gap wider: 40% of parents in the United States say their children missed their routine vaccines in 2020. Trust in government institutions and trust in the healthcare system are important factors in vaccine uptake, but access barriers—like lack of time, time-off, technology and a primary health care provider—are significant for many families in the U.S. Parents may not know about the availability of no cost vaccines through Vaccines for Children, a federal program that provides recommended vaccines at no cost to children under 18 years of age who are Medicaid-eligible, uninsured, American Indian/Alaska Native, or insured by health plans that do not fully cover all routine immunization.
The March of Dimes campaign will educate moms and families about recommended vaccines and no-cost access through the VFC program—and will expand advocacy efforts to promote equity in vaccine access. The organization will enlist its national network of partners, community leaders, health care providers and influencers to support public education and advocacy efforts.
For more information on the campaign, visit www.MarchofDimes.org/vaccines.