It’s perfectly natural to have worries surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe to postpone crucial vaccination appointments.

Child Health, Coronavirus Updates, Primary Care | 6 months ago

Don’t Delay Vaccines: Why It’s Still Important to Stick to Your Child’s Immunization Schedule

It’s perfectly natural to have worries surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe to postpone crucial vaccination appointments.

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the state of affairs for healthcare— and has even made some people wary of going to the doctor for medical care at all. But while the novel coronavirus needs to be dealt with responsibly, health officials are still urging patients to seek out the care they need.

This fact is especially important for young children, who have a strict immunization schedule that involves regular vaccinations during the first few years of their lives. As Jodie Prosser, MD, a pediatrician at Atrium Health Levine Children's Charlotte Pediatric Clinic explains, skipping these vaccinations can do more harm than good.

“In the grand scheme of things, vaccine-preventable diseases pose more of a threat to our patient population,” says Dr. Prosser. “So delaying vaccines is absolutely not something we would recommend.” To ensure these appointments are safe for patients and their families, Levine Children's has taken a creative, innovative approach.

Protocols are in place

Atrium Health is implementing COVID Safe protocols to prevent the spread of the illness and keep the patient population safe. In pediatrics, where many young patients need to come in for vital vaccinations, these protocols have been especially important.

“We are taking more precautions than ever and are changing our procedures to meet our COVID Safe standard of care,” says Dr. Prosser. In all the pediatric practices at Levine Children’s, they’re dividing the schedule so that the first half of the day is reserved for checkups and vaccinations for babies, children, and teens. Then the second half of the day is dedicated to sick patients who are at more risk for infection. These protocols keep the sick population and the healthy population separate.

“We’re also distributing masks and taking the temperature of every patient, every parent, and all personnel coming into our building,” says. Dr. Prosser. This temperature check is taken by an assigned temperature liaison at the front of the building.

Pediatric practices have also established a “virtual waiting room” that enables patients to check into the medical clinic from their car. This makes it easier to lead patients from their car directly to the exam room, without having to linger in the physical waiting room. The exam room they head into will have just been thoroughly cleaned.

“We actually think this is the safest time for kids to come in, just because we’re separating so much,” says Dr. Prosser. Even in this high-stress moment for public health, the team at Levine Children’s has gone out of their way to ensure patients and their families are kept safe.

Overcoming hesitation

Even with all these protocols in place, some fear is natural, on the part of both children and parents.

“At first I was wary about wearing a mask at work and scaring patients,” says Dr. Prosser. “But I’ve been surprised to learn that children are generally not that phased by the masks.” After all, children have seen parents and friends wear masks — so a provider wearing a mask isn’t a new phenomenon for these children.

In fact, one of the first patients Dr. Prosser saw while wearing a mask was a four-month old baby, who had come in for her vaccines. When Dr. Prosser smiled at this cute young patient from behind her mask, she was surprised at the reaction. The baby smiled right back.

“Even with a mask on, a child can tell you’re smiling just by the light in your eyes,” says Dr. Prosser. And sometimes that’s all it takes to ease a young patient’s fears.

Keeping the community safe

Without ensuring your kids are up-to-date on their needed immunizations, the consequences of skipping these vaccinations is severe. Many in the medical community worry about the return of certain diseases that these vaccines are designed to prevent. These vaccinations have worked for years to build up herd immunity among the population. Losing that immunity could be disastrous.

“We continue to see pockets of outbreaks, usually directly due to poor vaccination practices or lack of vaccination,” says Dr. Prosser. These diseases are unfortunately a much greater morbidity threat to the patient population compared to COVID-19.

The best thing a parent can do is call their pediatrician if they have any concerns. When they speak with a doctor, they might be able to set up a virtual visit. Or they might find that a face-to-face appointment or trip to the ER is necessary — and that safeguards are in place to ensure they’re safe throughout their visit. The consequences of delaying that appointment out of fear are just too serious.

The entire pediatric team understands this is a stressful time for parents. Throughout it all, it’s important to ensure children are still getting exercise, sticking to a healthy sleep routine and getting outside for some much-needed sun. And whenever these children need care, parents can rest assured the team at Atrium Health is prepared and committed to keeping their patients safe.

To keep your kids healthy and happy, schedule an appointment with one of our pediatricians today.