As parents across the nation postpone pediatrician visits and wellness checkups out of fear of coronavirus, health experts worry the subsequent decline in immunizations may be setting the stage for another public health crisis.
Vaccines can’t be administered via telemedicine, so some pediatricians have turned to drive-thru tests to keep children on track with their immunizations.
“We’re prioritizing infants right now so kids in the first six to 12 months of life who are either behind on the vaccines or need their next set of vaccines,” said Dr. Jonathan Miller, Chief of Primary Care at Nemours DuPont Pediatrics in Philadelphia.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 117 million kids globally are at risk for missing measles vaccines due to the surge in COVID-19.
In the United States, health experts are already seeing a sharp decline in vaccination rates. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that’s across all ages – from infants to adolescents.
While officials understand parents are worried about potential exposure to coronavirus, many of the diseases being vaccinated against carrying even greater risk.
“If we have measles, or whooping cough, or God forbid, polio that might come back that could be devastating to our children and our country and we just do not need that right now,” said American Academy of Pediatrics President Dr. Sally Goza.
Some pediatricians are planning to shift their focus to kids who need immunizations to start school.
“Families are, for the most part, really excited to bring their kids for the vaccines they know are important but in a way they know is safe,” said Miller.
The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to call pediatricians to find out how they’re minimizing risk.
Many are staggering appointments to eliminate time in waiting rooms or scheduling well-child checkups for one time of day separate from seeing sick patients.