The health disparities that exist within the Black community continue to be discussed, highlighted and profiled by the nation’s medical community. But for many years, the Black Press has given its support with the goal of informing African Americans about the many disparities we face and how to better improve the health of men, women and children of color.

One organization that has recently come to the attention of our editors is the African American Wellness Project [AAWP], a nonprofit established in 2002 by its founder, Michael LeNoir M.D. and led by Executive Director Monique LeNoir-Pittman – a Howard University graduate who assumed the position in May 2020.

Last month, AAWP recognized National Immunization Month and prioritized content that acknowledged the necessity of vaccinations for people of all ages. Vaccines protect us from a number of serious diseases that exist and have the risk of outbreak. Non-vaccinated people run the risk of contracting serious diseases and spreading them to others, so staying up to date on your vaccinations is recommended throughout our entire lives.

Clearly, the focus for most Americans remains COVID-19 with more adults, and now eligible youth, getting the vaccine or being urged to do so. But as AAWP recently reminded us, routine childhood vaccinations declined during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, many children and adolescents are still behind on their shots, according to the CDC.

The lag in these routine vaccinations, including measles, mumps, rubella, polio, HPV, whooping cough and other life-threatening diseases that can spread rapidly, are all preventable – if parents make sure their children and teens are up to date with their vaccinations.

A Blue Cross/Blue Shield analysis in late 2020 found a 26 percent drop in vaccinations among children since the pandemic began. And 40 percent of parents surveyed by Blue Cross said their children missed shots because of the pandemic. CDC data from 10 jurisdictions provides further evidence of the pandemic’s impact on routine childhood and adolescent vaccination rates, which were documented last year as parents across the country canceled well-child checkups to avoid coronavirus exposure.

We urge our readers not to wait for school administrators to remind them that their children are behind in getting their routine vaccinations. Don’t wait until your child or teen becomes severely ill with a disease from which they could have been protected.

Our youth may not know the facts but adults certainly do — or at least should. Check with your pediatrician, or visit the CDC’s website or AAWP’s website, www.aawellnessproject.org for more information.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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