By Dr. Donna O’Shea, chief medical officer of population health management, UnitedHealthcare
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the way of life in California, our country and across the world. In recent months, stay-at-home orders, mask wearing and social distancing measures have created a “new normal,” and all of us have put activities on hold to reduce the spread of the virus. But one activity that you should not put on hold is a child’s annual doctor visit.
As we start preparing for fall, there is no better time than now to schedule a well-child visit and make sure your child’s immunization records are up to date. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders have resulted in declines in outpatient pediatric visits and fewer vaccine doses being administered, leaving children at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases.”
Well-child visits are essential for tracking growth and developmental milestones, examining social behaviors, and getting scheduled immunizations to prevent illnesses like measles, polio and whooping cough. Just last year, the U.S. had more than 1,250 cases of measles — the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1992, which is all the more striking when we consider that 20 years ago, measles was declared eliminated from the U.S. because of our success in immunity through vaccination.
And don’t forget about getting a flu shot, recommended annually by the CDC for all children 6 months of age and older. Every year, flu causes serious illness and death. This is especially important this year since it’s still unknown if being sick with COVID-19 and the flu at the same time will result in a more severe illness.
Here are some important questions and topics families can discuss with thier child’s doctor:
• Ask what vaccines are appropriate for your child’s age and how to make up any that have been missed.
• Learn more about vaccines, including what infectious diseases they prevent, the effectiveness of vaccines, and how they are developed and tested.
• Discuss the common side effects of childhood vaccines, which are typically very mild, such as pain or swelling at the injection site, and can include low-grade fever or rash.
• Find out what extra steps your clinic is taking to see children safely during COVID-19, such as dedicated or specific hours just for children, the use of masks, and maintaining secure and properly cleaned waiting areas.
• Be sure to bring home a copy of the immunization record so you can keep track of your child’s tests and shots, and also request a copy for school.
Remember, regular appointments with your pediatrician or family physician can be essential to help maintain your child’s health. To learn more about recommended preventive care for your child, visit CDC and UHC.com.