Why Childhood Immunizations and Check-ups Matter during the COVID-19 PandemicPosted: May 11, 2020
Parents, pediatricians and the nation are relieved that the coronavirus pandemic is not as threatening to our children, but Covid-19 may be hurting our children in an even more dangerous way. Parents are delaying visits to the doctor and postponing vital vaccinations.
Le Bonheur Pediatrician, Meg West, MD, who practices at Pediatric Consultants, explains why check-ups and vaccines warrant regular trips to the pediatrician, even during the challenge of Covid-19.
While Covid-19 seems to be less serious in the younger population, there are numerous viruses that pose a much greater threat to our children. Measles, polio, meningitis, pneumonia and tetanus have each, in turn, created disease, disability and even death. Fortunately, we have vaccines for these illnesses.
Vaccines stimulate the body to form a protection to a particular virus called antibodies. These antibodies will help protect a child for years, if not a lifetime. If children stop getting these vaccines, then these viruses will likely come back and start affecting our children again.
Not only do we want to protect our children from these deadly diseases, we also want to protect those who are unable to get vaccinated (immunosuppressed patients, transplant recipients and children under 1 year of age). By vaccinating more than 90-95% of our children, we create “herd immunity.” Herd immunity not only protects the vaccinated but also makes it unlikely that a virus can attack someone who is unable to take the vaccine. If we stop vaccinating our children, the “herd immunity” may be lost, and viruses may begin to trigger recurrent outbreaks that threaten not only healthy children but also our most vulnerable.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. infant vaccination rates have already decreased by 40% and adolescent immunization rates are down at least 70%. This is compared to the months prior to the national shutdown. Unfortunately in the last few years, vaccination rates were already slipping in some parts of the country. Measles has been threatening a comeback; just last year, Washington State had its biggest measles outbreak in nearly 30 years. These vaccination trends are alarming and represent a major threat to our youngest children.
Check-ups go along with vaccinations. These are important to evaluate the well-being of every child. Over the age of three, children need a yearly check-up. Under the age of three, children need more frequent check-ups. These visits help the family and pediatrician to ensure proper development, nutrition and growth. Many disease processes can begin slowly over the life of a child, and catching these problems early is of upmost importance.
We are doing everything we can to protect you from COVID-19 during your visit. We therefore encourage you to protect your child and call your child’s pediatrician for a check-up.