Despite fears, make sure your child is vaccinated on time
Many aspects of life have recently changed or been put on hold due to COVID-19. But should parents delay important vaccinations for their infants, children and teens?
"We know these are scary and uncertain times and many families aren't sure whether they should bring their child to see their pediatrician for routine visits," said Dr. Tomitra Latimer, medical director at Lurie Children's Pediatrics at Deming. "It is important that infants and toddlers continue to receive their immunizations on time. Immunizations keep infants and children safe by protecting them from vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and whopping cough (pertussis)."
Pediatricians follow the recommended immunization schedule because it protects infants and children and boosts their immune system early in life before exposure to potentially life-threatening diseases, including measles, bacterial meningitis and hepatitis B. Many vaccines for children require multiple doses several months apart.
"If a vaccine is delayed or missed, babies and toddlers are at increased risk from getting sick from a disease that is preventable with vaccine," Latimer said.
Still, there is fear and anxiety that you or your child might be exposed to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 while visiting your primary care physician or pediatrician's office. Latimer shares that many medical practices are taking precautions to ensure the safety and health of their patients and staff.
"Lurie Children's Primary Care Clinics have adopted several precautions to keep patients, families and staff safe. We are postponing all non-urgent, well-child checkups and follow-up visits until a safer time," Latimer said.
Lurie Children's is screening families when scheduling clinic visits, asking questions over the phone such as does your child have a cough, fever or shortness of breath? Those questions are then asked again upon arrival to the clinic. "We have created a division in the waiting rooms between sick and well visits, and staff are disinfecting the clinic multiple times a day," Latimer said. "Lurie Children's' doctors, nurses and staff are wearing masks and now patients and families are asked to wear masks as well."
Latimer stresses it's especially important for children under the age of 2 to maintain their immunization schedule. For older children, it's reasonable that a well-child visit could be rescheduled if vaccines will not be given. She urges families to reach out to their health care providers with questions or concerns.
Additionally, many families are apprehensive about visiting the emergency room for their child. "Parents may be concerned that if they visit a hospital they are at an increased risk of acquiring COVID-19," said Dr. Elizabeth Alpern, head of Emergency Medicine at Lurie Children's. "Our Emergency Department is seeing a number of children who are very sick with conditions that could have been mitigated if treated earlier."
Physicians urge families to seek medical attention for their child by first contacting your primary care physician or pediatrician. If you do not have a primary care physician or pediatrician and your child's injury or illness is worsening, do not delay in seeking care.
"Our pediatric Emergency Departments at Lurie Children's main campus in downtown Chicago, Central DuPage Hospital and Northwest Community Hospital are distinct facilities from general EDs, which may be seeing adult COVID-19 patients," Alpern said.
"We are taking every precaution to keep our patients, families and staff safe in our hospital. This includes wearing personal protective equipment, screening patients, families and staff for COVID-19 symptoms, and isolating every patient visiting the ED in an exam room upon arrival."
• Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital. For more information, visit www.luriechildrens.org.