Due to recent events, our lives are different and routines are interrupted; however, I would highly encourage families to maintain their child’s immunization schedule. We usually call this procedure taking our infant for a checkup and their “baby shots.” Infants and children could be at risk for several communicable diseases if parents do not visit their healthcare provider and continue the series of recommended childhood immunizations. Your pediatric office is continuing to provide well child appointments for routine vaccines to keep your baby healthy. In fact, this week, April 25 through May 2, is National Infant Immunization Week.
Families certainly may be concerned about how to balance guarding their family against the spread of COVID-19 while still protecting their baby against preventable illnesses such as measles, mumps and chicken pox. Your doctor’s office is taking extra precautions, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, to provide a safe and clean environment for you to bring your children for their shots. It is likely you will wait in your car until your turn to enter the facility. Many offices choose to see well children in the morning and sick children with colds, ear infections and sore throats in the afternoon. Other offices have always had separate “sick” and ‘well” waiting room areas to prevent the potential spread of infection. Before parents get an appointment, most offices screen all children by phone for signs of COVID-19. Many pediatric offices are checking everyone who enters the office — whether child, parent, or caregiver — for fever, as suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
As our state recovers from the current pandemic, we do not want families to have to deal with a measles or whooping cough outbreak among our country’s youngest and most vulnerable children because we did not vaccinate our babies on time. It would be a tragedy to have a group of infants who miss out on their vaccinations with very serious consequences. For example, before the coronavirus pandemic, you may recall there has been an increase in cases of measles in the U.S. and around the world. Public health authorities reported in 2019, the U.S. had its highest number of cases of measles in 25 years, even though we have had the measles vaccine available for over 50 years. Unfortunately, over 150,000 deaths in the past few years were due to measles.
It is not just missed vaccinations that are a concern. At your baby’s well child visit, pediatricians and nurse practitioners are tracking growth and development. For newborns, a well visit includes checks for weight loss, jaundice, and congenital diseases. For a 1-week-old baby just out of the hospital, there are many things your provider needs to check that could be much more dangerous than the coronavirus at this point. Parents fearing COVID-19 may be tempted to call and cancel their well child visit — the encounter when their children receive routine vaccines. Please keep your baby’s appointment and go. Attend your baby’s checkup, receive the appropriate vaccinations and increase the chance of your child staying well and healthy.
Ann Lambert is a pediatric nurse practitioner at Pediatric Associates of Alexander City and an associate clinical professor at Auburn University’s School of Nursing.