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Child vaccination rates, sports physicals down in Louisville

Pediatricians in Louisville say wellness visits have been on the decline the last year, meaning life-saving immunizations and sports physicals are too.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Childhood vaccinations are down and local pediatricians are warning parents about the risks they're taking if they don't schedule an appointment soon.

Norton Children's Medical Group says, in the last year and a half, routine wellness visits and vaccinations have decreased substantially. Right now, they're seeing about a 20% decrease in the amount of D-TAP shots given, which helps children develop immunity to three deadly diseases caused by bacteria: diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough.

Pediatricians have seen an even greater decline in the Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which is down 60% from previous years.

Then, there's measles, or rubeola, which is a highly contagious virus that can lead to complications. Dr. Heather Felton, a pediatrician at Norton Children's Medical Group Germantown, says you need at least a 90% vaccination rate to keep herd immunity from measles.  This year, Norton says the rate is closer to 70%. 

"It would definitely close down a school if you had a measles outbreak there," Dr. Felton said. "You can be exposed and you may be contagious for a while before you have symptoms."

You can also get your COVID-19 shot and your childhood immunizations in the same visit. 

Dr. Felton expects the COVID vaccine to be approved for children as young as five by this fall.

RELATED: Yes, the COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the Delta variant

Immunizations aside, fewer kids are also going to the doctor for their sports physicals.

Doctors are expecting a rush in late July or August, and ask that you come in sooner than later. It's also important to get these done at your family doctor's office, rather than a clinic.

"They know your history, your family's medical history. Sometimes you can have a really healthy teenager but knowing of a significant family history of heart problems, it might put them at higher risk of playing sports and your doctor's going to know which tests to order or what follow-up questions to ask," Dr. Felton said.

Dr. Felton says it's common for doctors to find kids are more at risk for heart complications during their annual physicals, too.

Contact reporter Brooke Hasch atbhasch@whas11.com. Follow her onTwitter (@WHAS11Hasch) andFacebook.

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