People just aren’t going to the doctor at all – and that is creating a whole new problem, especially for children. Joining CBS 2’s Irika Sargent to talk about that on Friday was Dr. Jeffrey Loughead, medical director of pediatrics at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital.
Loughead said some parents have expressed fears of stepping into hospitals or doctors’ offices with their children at all.
“We’re hearing that certainly some of them are. Some of them have expressed concern that the environment has the virus in it, and that bringing the children into the environment would unnecessarily put them at risk,” Loughead said. “We think that that’s a relatively small number, however, but it is a concerning number that some people are fearful, and we’re trying to get the word out that the environments have been thoroughly cleaned. People have really done a great job in terms of social distancing and making sure that patients that present themselves for care can do so safely and effectively, and so we’re trying to put that at ease.”
A major concern that has been identified is a big drop in vaccines for young children.
“Going with the stay-at-home order in early March or mid-March and progressively thereafter, the number of children that have presented themselves for vaccination has dropped off dramatically – especially in the very vulnerable age group of less than 24 months. So the CDC recently put out a report, and notifying that providers that the number of immunizations that have been ordered by the providers and the number of immunizations reported as being given has dropped off dramatically,” Loughead said, “and these are going to be very hard for the parents to catch up if they don’t do so soon.”
The immunization schedule for children under 2 years old is very compact, so if four to six months are lost, it will be very hard for the children to get back on schedule, he said.
Some parents might say their kids are at home and are not going out, so why take them out for immunizations? Loughead emphasized that once social distancing is relaxed and children are amongst their peers again, they will be vulnerable if they are not immunized.
“Hopefully, these stay-at-home orders will start to diminish very soon, and when that happens, the children will come back into the normal routine activities – playing with other children, contact with other adults, and so if you have a partially immunized or unimmunized child, that means that’s going to be at risk for some of the diseases that are still very much present in the humidity,” he said.
Pertussis – also known as whooping cough – is prevalent in the humidity, and cases of it come up every year in a fairly large number, Loughead said. Some of the other diseases are much rarer, but the immunization is on a specific schedule so that children are immune to all diseases on the vaccination schedule as they approach school age.