Pediatricians at Eugene Pediatric Associates, and across the country, are seeing a dangerous decline in the number of kids getting immunized. When the COVID-19 health crisis began, most people stopped going to the doctor unless they were sick or injured, that included families who chose to postpone their well-child checkups.
According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control, vaccination rates nationwide have dropped 50-70% since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. Findings from the CDC show that doctors are ordering about 2.5 million fewer doses of vaccines for preventable diseases due to lack of demand.
“And, despite the fact that we are really working on getting these kids all in for their well checks, our clinic is still down 20% across the board for immunization rates compared to last year at this time,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw.
Delay in medical care puts children at risk
Many families are cautious about going to the doctor’s office for fear of getting sick, but Dr. Bradshaw wants parents to know that putting off immunizations creates more health risks.
“I completely understand the concerns parents have about bringing their well children into the clinic. But putting off vaccinations leaves your child vulnerable to getting sick from something else that we could prevent,” she says. “There is still pertussis, whooping cough, meningitis and other illnesses that kids need to be protected from.”
In addition to infants, toddlers and grade-schoolers, adolescents and teens also need critical vaccines, including some specifically for kids who are heading to college in the fall. Dr. Bradshaw says this is also the age group that is having the hardest time with social distancing, so it’s important for them to see their doctor.
Safety protocols are in place
Weeks before Oregon’s governor issued a stay-at-home directive to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, Eugene Pediatric Associates had already taken additional safety measures at its clinic to keep families safe from exposure. Those safety protocols remain in place, starting with your arrival at the clinic.
“We have families wait in their car instead of waiting in a public waiting room. Every person coming through our doors will have their temperature screened. Then, you’ll be able to go straight into your exam room, which has been sanitized top to bottom before you arrived and is sanitized again after you leave,” Dr. Bradshaw says.
In addition, sick children enter through the back door of the building and are seen in a separate part of the clinic by providers in full protective equipment—a gown, goggles, mask and gloves. Children who are there for wellness checkups are seen by providers wearing masks.
“For the safety of families and for our safety, we will be wearing a mask the entire time we are in the visit with you.”
Call your doctor
To help encourage families to schedule their well-child visits, the American Academy of Pediatrics has launched a new digital campaign, #CallYourPediatrician, to increase awareness about this issue and to get parents to make that call for their child’s vaccination appointment.
“Right now, we are seeing what happens when you don’t have a vaccine to prevent a horrendous disease that emerges,” says Dr. Bradshaw. “We need to remember that there are a lot of diseases that we do know, that we do have vaccines to prevent. And, we really need to keep immunizing ourselves against those because, otherwise, we’ll have double trouble.”