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Alaska News

Alaska immunization rate hit hard by pandemic restrictions

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Alaska has eased pandemic-related restrictions on health care office visits, and officials are encouraging residents to get back to their health care routines — especially immunizations.

On Wednesday, the Anchorage Office of Emergency Management issued a public message urging residents to return to practices like regular physicals, women’s health care visits and children’s vaccinations. The state has seen a 49% drop in immunizations this April compared to April 2019, according to Matthew Bobo, manager for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services’ immunization program.

Without regular immunizations, there could be a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, Bobo said.

“We obviously don’t want that to happen during a time when we already see COVID-19 circulating,” Bobo said.

Bobo’s program tracks all immunizations in the state. The drop in immunizations and doctor visits is a problem echoed nationwide, he said. Getting immunized requires an in-person visit, and those have been limited for months.

“We’re having national conversations about how to tackle this because we’re still social distancing,” Bobo said.

Doctor’s offices are separating “well visits” from “sick visits” using guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bobo said.

City medical offices are taking extra precautions to prevent disease spread, according to the Anchorage Office of Emergency Management.

“When making an appointment, ask your provider about what you can expect when you enter their office. Some changes may include a health screening or a request for you to wear a face covering,” it said.

The state will continue to track and compare current monthly immunization rates to the 2019 rates and has also created an “improving immunization task force,” Bobo said.

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