The Alabama Chapterof the American Academy of Pediatrics (AL-AAP) and the Alabama Departmentof Public Health (ADPH) want to stress to parents and caregivers that,during the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is extremely important to keepchildren’s vaccines up to date.
On April 15, theAmerican Academy of Pediatrics released guidance calling for continuationof well visits for children, especially those under 2 years of age. Inorder to prevent disease outbreaks once social distancing orders are lifted,vaccinations must be continued at the recommended intervals. This scheduleprotects children and families from vaccine-preventable diseases. Peoplewho are unvaccinated or have unknown vaccination status represent the vastmajority of patients in outbreaks of diseases for which vaccines are available.
Pediatrician andADPH District Medical Officer Dr. Karen Landers said, “Vaccines have significantlyreduced the burden of diseases such as measles, as just one example. Vaccinesare one of the most important advances of public health in Alabama as wellas the United States. We must continue to have high rates of vaccination,even during this time of social distancing, in order to prevent illnesses,save lives and reduce future outbreaks in Alabama.”
This week, UnitedNations health agencies estimated that millions of children could go unvaccinatedagainst measles if parents and providers do not partner to continue vaccinations.Measles is highly contagious and can be a serious illness in all age groups.However, children younger than 5 years of age and adults older than 20are more likely to suffer from measles complications. According to theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention, about one out of four peoplewho get measles will be hospitalized; one out of 1,000 people with measleswill develop brain swelling (encephalitis) which may lead to brain damage;and one or two out of 1,000 people with measles will die, even with thebest care. Two doses of measles vaccine are over 97 percent protectiveagainst the disease.
In addition, a ModernHealthcare article this week cited signs that “indicate fewer childrenmay be getting their routine vaccines as individuals and providers practicesocial distancing.”
“Children shouldbe vaccinated according to the recommendations of the Advisory Committeeon Immunization Practices as soon as they are in the eligible age group;don’t delay having your babies or toddlers see their doctor. This is anotheressential way to keep them healthy during COVID-19,” said Wes Stubblefield,M.D., F.A.A.P., a pediatrician in Florence, and president of the AL-AAP.
During the COVID-19pandemic, pediatricians across Alabama are strictly adhering to infectioncontrol measures to keep children safe, such as:
· Conductingmany visits virtually;
· Schedulingwell visits and sick visits separately;
· Checkingin patients outside of the office and allowing waiting in the parking lotuntil appointment times;
· Allowingonly one caregiver (under age 65) to accompany a child to the pediatricoffice; and
· Cleaningand disinfecting exam rooms between patients.
To assure your childrenare receiving their vaccinations and other well care on schedule, contactthe office of your pediatrician or family physician for guidance on scheduling.