An annual visit to the pediatrician is always a good idea, regardless of a child’s age. Regular wellness exams and immunizations help to ensure a child’s normal development, healthy growth, and protection from preventable diseases.
However, as the COVID19 pandemic continues into 2021, hesitancy to schedule routine health care is having an impact not only on adults, but on children, and pediatricians are concerned about the significant decline in well-child visits and immunizations.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has emphasized the importance of children being up-to-date on routine immunizations as families prepare for the return of in-person classes this fall.
“Not only are children playing ‘catch-up’ on scheduled vaccinations, but Virginia has new school vaccine requirements for rising kindergartners, seventh-graders, and seniors,” said a spokeswoman for the Rockbridge Area Health Center.
Beginning July 1, students in Virginia will need vaccines to protect against Meningitis, HPV and Hepatitis A in addition to previously required immunizations. As schools begin to reopen, and as everyone begins moving about more freely, the risks become significantly higher for the spread of diseases, making it especially important to ensure all children have received the recommended vaccinations and boosters, she said.
“Parents have been cautious about bringing their children to a health care facility during the pandemic,” added the spokeswoman. “But RAHC has specific guidelines and procedures in place to mitigate risks to patients because it’s critical for infants and children to continue to be administered to and immunized.”
The latest CDC data provides confirmation about dangerously low vaccination rates among children during the pandemic
As a result, many infants could be left vulnerable to diseases including hepatitis, polio, whooping cough, and measles, and older children are not receiving their routine booster shots to continue preventing diseases.
This decline in immunizations, said the RAHC spokeswoman, could potentially place communities at increased risks for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases and health care professionals are committed to the importance of staying focused on maintaining high vaccination rates.
Routine annual pediatric well-child physicals are recommended for ages 3 and above and are not only an opportunity for patients to receive scheduled immunizations, but also provide pediatricians the chance to collect information about overall health, weight, vision, activity, nutrition, and can address health concerns, assess growth and development, and discuss emotional or social concerns.
During an RAHC visit, pediatricians also talk with school-aged children about their thoughts and feelings, especially during the pandemic when they may be experiencing anxiety when seeing people wearing masks and hearing anxious conversations.
As an accredited Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH), RAHC provides coordinated and integrated health care and, in addition to pediatric medical care, on-site services also include dental and behavioral health services for both children and adults, regardless of income or insurance status.