PROVIDENCE, RI — Childhood vaccinations rates have plummeted in Rhode Island during the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Gina Raimondo said Thursday. The governor urged all residents who have put off preventative or non-emergency care during the pandemic to go see their doctor, saying it is absolutely safe to do so.
"We've seen a real drop in primary care office visits," Raimondo said. "We've seen a concerning drop in immunizations for our kids."
Raimondo said she is committed to investing in the state's health care infrastructure, rebuilding from the pressures caused by the pandemic. Hospitals, in particular, have been hit hard, she said, after being asked to put off revenue-producing elective procedures while handling the burden of COVID-19 patients.
"The reality is that our health care system is stretched, and fragile, in ways that I don't know if it's ever been before," she said.
Primary care providers have seen a drop in visits, Raimondo said, particularly pediatrician's offices. To help support them, the state is launching a pediatric support council, led by Rhode Island Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott.
Pediatric vaccination rates have dropped by an average of 35 percent during the pandemic, Raimondo said, though some offices have seen rates as high as 50 percent. The governor called that a "disaster waiting to happen," this winter, urging all parents to schedule appointments with their child's pediatrician to get up-to-date.
Despite the challenges the pandemic has caused for Rhode Island's health care system, it has also forced innovation, Raimondo said, particularly in telehealth. As the state rebuilds, it's important to work these new technologies into the system.
"Let's use the occasion of this crisis to make changes in our health care system," Raimondo said, saying these were changes that were talked about before, but there was never a real push to implement them.
Patch editor Scott Souza contributed to this report.