While we have spent the last few months in quarantine, parents have missed well-child visits and vaccinations. Read on for ways to safely stay on track with your adolescent and childhood immunizations during COVID-19.
During the past few months in quarantine, every parent has, at some point, yelled "Don't hurt yourself! I do not want to go to the doctor!" As fears grew about this novel coronavirus, many families agreed that staying home was much safer than sitting in a waiting room, surrounded by sick people.
Yet, while managing the risk of this new virus, doctors worry we could be increasing our children's risk of other vaccine-preventable childhood diseases. This is possible if we do not keep them updated on routine vaccinations. Doctors warn that epidemics of measles and Chickenpox (varicella) could re-emerge if enough people do not vaccinate.
Additionally, as schools and childcare facilities begin to reopen, your child will not be admitted if they aren't up to date on immunizations.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes clear and colorful immunization schedules. There are separate, easy-to-read charts for children ages birth to six years and ages seven to eighteen years.
Kindergarten entrance requires a series of shots. "5- year old shots" can occur anytime after they turn five, but must be done before they enter their school on the first day.
Each of the required shots, Dtap ( a vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, or whooping cough), IPV (polio vaccine), MMR (mumps, measles, rubella), and varicella (Chickenpox vaccine), are booster shots. This means your child should have already received a first dose, second dose, and third dose of the vaccine.
After kindergarten, children will have fewer shots to endure. Prior to entering 6th grade, a Tdap vaccine is required. In addition, the first dose of the HPV and Meningococcal vaccination is recommended for all 11-12-year-olds. Pediatricians recommend additional doses of the Meningococcal for children at age 16.
Talk to your pediatrician if your child has missed previous boosts or did not complete vaccinations of HepB (human papillomavirus), Hib (protects against Haemophilus influenzae type b which can cause meningitis), and PCV13 (Pneumococcal vaccine).
As always, pediatricians also strongly recommend a yearly Influenza or flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is often not available until the fall.
Call your Pediatrician's office to inquire about well-child appointments and vaccination plans. They will encourage you to make an appointment and will explain any process changes.
Before our state began Phase 1, my practitioner was only seeing infants for well-child appointments, but in the past month has begun appointments to vaccinate younger children.
Instead of entering the waiting room, we are asked to stay in our car until we are called. When ready, the nurse will immediately take us back to our patient room. Siblings cannot attend the appointment which does require more childcare arrangements.
These changes can seem stressful but there is good news. Many pediatrician offices have seen few to no cases of COVID-19. They have also increased their cleaning processes ten-fold. Remember, these doctors also have seen fewer patients overall in recent months. The office you visit could be nearly empty, decreasing changes of interacting with infected people.
We will be continuing to live amidst a pandemic for a while. Let's remember to keep caring for our children's health in all areas. The risk of other diseases has not disappeared with the onset of the new coronavirus. Be sure to talk to your pediatrician about any concerns you have about vaccines or office visits.