We are already experiencing a pandemic. We can’t afford to experience a vaccine-preventable outbreak too.
If you’re like me, you’ve skipped your yearly wellness exam and dental cleaning due to COVID-19. Most of us will not suffer any long-term consequences from putting off these routine healthcare visits, but young children face additional risks that most of us older folks don’t have to worry about.
(REMEMBER! If you’re feeling unwell, call your doctor! Serious health conditions don’t stop during a pandemic. Don’t put it off! Hospitals have protocols in place to keep you safe.)
Children are blank slates, capable of learning anything, but also susceptible to a lot of diseases that are vaccine preventable, some of which can be devastating. In March, many healthcare clinics shuttered their doors to save personal protective equipment for hospitals dealing with COVID-19 patients. As a result, the CDC has noticed a sizeable reduction in the number of vaccinations given to children. This leaves children vulnerable to new disease outbreaks, especially as social distancing measures begin to relax.
The Washington State Department of Health reported in a May 8 news release that providers in the state vaccine program administered 30% fewer vaccines in March of this year compared to previous years. “In April, preliminarily we are seeing a 42% decrease,” DOH said in the statement.
While we deal with this pandemic, the last thing we need is an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable illness, like measles, whooping cough, or rotavirus.
For a while, it may have been difficult for parents or guardians to schedule immunization appointments for their children. Amie Tidrington, Correctional Health Manager with Skagit County Public Health, spent nearly 18 years as the Immunization Clinic Coordinator, overseeing vaccination clinics for children and adults. She knows first-hand how important vaccinations are to a child’s health, and also experienced the difficulty in scheduling an appointment for an infant.
Amie’s infant granddaughter was due for her six-month appointment and immunizations at the end of March, but due to COVID-19, the appointment was cancelled. Her daughter waited a few weeks and called to make an appointment, only to be turned down. A few weeks later, Amie called to make the appointment for her granddaughter, and, again, was turned down.
“I was bothered by it because if you’re not going to vaccinate because of COVID-19, those other diseases still exist. We’re just going to have another outbreak like meningitis or measles,” she said. “We risk an outbreak of childhood diseases that can be very serious.”
Amie’s granddaughter was finally able to get vaccinated at the beginning of May. The DOH is asking providers to prioritize newborn care and vaccination of infants and children up to age 24 months if possible.
“Even in these days, when COVID is the priority on everyone’s mind,” it’s still important to vaccinate children, Amie believes. “If we don’t keep the vaccination rates up, other diseases will use this as an opportunity to come back in our lives. We don’t have the capacity to deal with that, nor do we want our children to suffer through what are preventable diseases.”
If your child is overdue for immunizations, call your child’s healthcare provider and make an appointment. Hospitals and clinics are taking extra measures to keep patients safe from COVID-19.
There’s a lot of information out there about immunizations. Here are some reliable sources: