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Raimondo: Childhood vaccination rates have plummeted during the pandemic

The governor is urging families to get their children vaccinated before school begins

Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo spoke at her coronavirus briefing Friday.
Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo spoke at her coronavirus briefing Friday.Blake Nissen for the Boston Globe

PROVIDENCE — Governor Gina Raimondo warned Friday that Rhode Island is facing a potential health crisis if families across the state don’t race to get their children vaccinated before school begins in August.

Raimondo said vaccination rates for children between the ages of two and seven plummeted 52 percent in April and May, when a stay-at-home order was in place as the state was trying contain the coronavirus. She urged parents to call their children’s pediatrician and set up appointments right away.

“If we don’t, we’re going to have real issues when school starts, when flu season comes, and when winter starts,” Raimondo said during an afternoon press conference. The first day of school is Aug. 31.

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Raimondo said vaccinations are especially important for four-year-olds who are about to start pre-kindergarten classes in September. She also said families should make sure children under the age of two, 11-year-olds, and 16-year-olds receive vaccinations this summer.

Raimondo said pediatricians will begin having office hours in the evening and on weekends, and special immunization clinics will be set up in the coming weeks. She also said doctors will work closely with school districts to ramp up vaccinations.

In unrelated child news, Rhode Island confirmed its first case of Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in a school-aged girl. The disease is rare, but it is believed to be connected to the way some children’s bodies respond to the coronavirus, and causes different body parts to become inflamed.

The child is currently in the hospital, according state Department of Health director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott.

The health department announced Friday that Rhode Island had 25 new positive cases of the coronavirus, the lowest daily totally since March 24. Seven more residents died from the virus, bringing the total to 927.

Raimondo said she expects to have an announcement about Phase 3 of the state’s reopening on Monday, the same day several of her executive orders related to the virus are set to expire.

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Raimondo said she is still leaning toward moving into the next phase, but she may rework guidance around large events as a response to outbreaks in other states. She also said she will likely announce new rules for those traveling from states that are seeing outbreaks, including the possibility of a mandatory quarantine period or a requirement to get tested.


Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.