The percentage of low-income pregnant mothers who received influenza and Tdap vaccinations fell sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in Black and Hispanic patients, a new study finds.
The percentage of patients who received the influenza vaccines at two Medicaid clinics in Houston dropped from 78% before the pandemic to 61% during it (adjusted odds ratio, 0.38; 95% CI, 0.26-0.53; P < .01), researchersat the annual clinical and scientific meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The percentage receiving the Tdap vaccine dipped from 85% to 76% (aOR, 0.56; 95% CI, 0.40-0.79; P < .01).
New York–Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center pediatrician Sallie Permar, MD, PhD, who’s familiar with the study findings, called them “alarming” and said in an interview that they should be “a call to action for providers.”
“Continuing the status quo in our routine preventative health care and clinic operations means that we are losing ground in reduction and elimination of vaccine-preventable diseases,” Dr. Permar said in an interview.
According to corresponding author Bani Ratan, MD, an ob.gyn. with the Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, there’s been little if any previous research into routine, non-COVID vaccination in pregnant women during the pandemic.
For the study, researchers retrospectively analyzed the records of 939 pregnant women who entered prenatal care before 20 weeks (462 from May–November 2019, and 477 from May–November 2020) and delivered at full term.
Among ethnic groups, non-Hispanic Blacks saw the largest decline in influenza vaccines. Among them, the percentage who got them fell from 64% (73/114) to 35% (35/101; aOR, 0.30; 95% CI, 0.17-0.52; P < .01). Only Hispanics had a statistically significant decline in Tdap vaccination (OR, 0.52, 95% CI, 0.34-0.80; P < .01, percentages not provided).
Another study presented at ACOG examined vaccination rates during the pandemic and found that Tdap vaccination ratesin a Philadelphia-area health care system.
Possible causes for the decline in routine vaccination include hesitancy linked to the COVID-19 vaccines and fewer office visits because of telemedicine, said Dr. Batan in an interview.
Dr. Permar blamed the role of vaccine misinformation during the pandemic and the mistrust caused by the exclusion of pregnant women from early vaccine trials. She added that “challenges in health care staffing and issues of health care provider burnout that worsened during the pandemic likely contributed to a fraying of the focus on preventive health maintenance simply due to bandwidth of health professionals.”
In a separate study presented at ACOG, researchers at the State University of New York, Syracuse, reported onof whom just 38.2% were vaccinated against COVID-19. Among the unvaccinated, who were more likely to have less education, 66% reported that lack of data about vaccination was their primary concern.
No funding or disclosures are reported by study authors. Dr. Permar reported consulting for Merck, Moderna, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Dynavax, and Hookipa on cytomegalovirus vaccine programs.
*This story was updated on 5/11/2022.