FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Pediatricians are sounding the alarm about a concerning side effect of the coronavirus – immunization rates have plunged since the start of the pandemic.

Data from Scientific American shows vaccination rates dropped to just 44% in Texas during March of this year, the second-lowest in the nation behind Washington, D.C.

Under the threat of COVID-19, many families are avoiding a trip to the doctor’s office for pediatric check-ups.

“There is a lot of people that are actually scared to come out,” said Dr. Joanne Holliman, a pediatrician at MD Kids Pediatrics in Garland.

That means a lot of kids are falling behind on their immunizations.

“We pulled some reports and were able to determine that our patients, like many patients across the globe, have missed on some important vaccines,” said Dr. Alice Phillips, a Cook Children’s pediatrician.

From March 1 through May 31, 2020, 66,049 children received their vaccines at either a Cook Children’s primary care office or a neighborhood clinic.

That’s compared to 81,984 in those same months in 2019.

“And that drop was in about the 19 to 20 percent range. We were giving that much of a percentile less of vaccines,” said Dr. Phillips. “We’ve been focusing really diligently on the past two months now to get those patients in, to educate our families about the importance of vaccines.”

Because even though coronavirus is top of mind right now, it doesn’t mean all other diseases have disappeared.

“Our deadly illnesses – pertussis, meningitis, measles – we don’t want to forget that those are still out there,” said Dr. Phillips.

Pediatricians are worried families will continue to delay getting shots if kids don’t physically return to the classroom in the fall. Some parents think children don’t need their vaccines if they’re not going out.

“But I bet we go somewhere,” Dr. Phillips said. “We might go to the grocery store, we might go to a shopping mall, we might go to work because it’s part of our careers and we’re considered essential. So we ourselves can be risks to our children.”

She recommends sticking to your child’s vaccination schedule, regardless of what happens with schools.

“The way we protect our kids is through immunizations,” Dr. Holliman said.

Pediatricians warn we could also see a rush to get vaccines when campuses finally open up, which, combined with a backlog of appointments, could further delay immunizations.

Caroline Vandergriff