RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Kids around the country and the world are falling behind on their childhood vaccinations, according to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United Nations.
And North Carolina is no exception.
Dr. Brian Goldstein, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare of North Carolina and South Carolina, said in 2020, many children across North Carolina, just like in the rest of the country, missed at least one dose of a regular childhood vaccine due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But if those kids don't get caught up on the missing doses, he said, it could have huge consequences for their health.
"Missing a second or third dose of a series could mean that a child doesn't get adequate defense against that disease," Goldstein said.
He explained that booster shots help children build immunity that they wouldn't have with just a first dose--or without the vaccine at all.
"If a booster is recommended, it's because, without it, research has shown that without it, there's a real risk if you're exposed to that infectious disease you might not have a strong enough immunity to it anymore even if you received the first dose of a vaccine," Goldstein said.
And if a child were to miss an entire vaccine series, Goldstein added, then they would be much more vulnerable to severe disease from an otherwise preventable illness. Additionally, when a child misses an entire vaccine series, they put the entire community at risk--potentially exposing those who cannot be vaccinated due to age or medical conditions to the disease in question.
"There's a public health community benefit for having children vaccinated," Goldstein said.
The good news is that if a child missed a dose or two, Goldstein said it's never too late to catch up.
"These are guidelines based on the experience of research that gives us the best immune response in children, but there is absolutely no barrier to getting the vaccine late," Goldstein said. "Better late than never applies here."
The CDC maintains a recommended schedule of immunizations for children. While the COVID-19 vaccine is not currently authorized or approved for children younger than 12, many experts estimate it might be available for younger children by the end of the year.