While it's great that the COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out, remember how important your children's standard immunizations are in order to keep them safe.
Last summer, in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, childhood well check-up exams were down about 50 percent, and many providers worried about the vaccinations that were being missed. Pediatricians cited parents being frightened about going to the doctor's or an emergency room for fear of exposure.
Here in Nashville, nobody knows how many vaccinations were missed in the last year while families stayed close to home, says Elizabeth Williams, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
“Of course, we understand that parents are scared about coming to the doctor during the pandemic, but it is very important to keep children up-to-date on their own vaccination schedule to avoid an epidemic of a vaccine-preventable disease on top of the COVID pandemic,” says Williams.
Data tells us that otherwise healthy children are not developing severe illness from the COVID-19 virus, but we know that children DO develop severe illness from the diseases that childhood vaccines prevent.
So don’t let fear keep you from making and keeping appointments, Williams says, who points out that Vanderbilt and its satellite clinics continue to take every measure possible to keep facilities clean and ensure patient safety, including phone triaging, separating patients with COVID-like symptoms, extra cleaning, and more.
“The safety of all vaccines is continuously monitored in our country through many interconnected systems, so if any concern is identified, we can respond rapidly,” Williams says. “I understand that some families are scared, so we try to figure out exactly what parents are worried about and ask if we can address these concerns with what we know as health-care providers who truly have our patients’ best interest at heart,” she adds.
AVOID A BACKLOG
Delayed vaccinations during COVID-19 can create a backlog for children entering kindergarten or the 7th grade, when updated immunization forms are required. While we may see social-distancing orders easing and people starting to feel more comfortable getting out, there may also be a rush to pediatrician offices and clinics.
“Pediatric practices have not been in a situation like the current pandemic,” Williams says, “so it is very difficult to predict for certain how things will play out. It also depends on how many kids end up being behind with needed vaccines before the next school year,” she adds.
The Centers for Disease Controls says that providers and public-health officials at all levels will need to work together “to achieve rapid catch-up vaccination.” Parents can also play an important role by planning ahead, ensuring that they have the time to make wise and healthy decisions for their families.
2020 Recommended Vaccinations for Birth - Age 6
Learn more about specific diseases, vaccines and more at CDC.gov/vaccines.