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COVID-19: Don't Skip Childhood Vaccinations

While families are safely quarantining at home, pediatricians are worried that many children are missing their vaccinations. Priya Soni, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Cedars-Sinai, said routine well-child visits, including those for immunizations, are down 40% from normal right now.

Data obtained from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released May 8 shows that through the Vaccine for Children (VFC) program there were 2.5 million fewer doses of routine non-influenza vaccines between mid-March and mid-April this year, compared to the same period in 2019. There also were 250,000 fewer doses of measles vaccine.

"Families are not coming in for their MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccines or chickenpox shots or other routine vaccines that are crucial for children," said Soni.

For infants, the first set of vaccines is given at birth, with additional vaccines at two, four, and then either six or nine months, depending on the physician’s preference. Around the time of a baby’s first birthday, they should receive the MMR vaccine, which would be their first “live” vaccine.

Priya Soni, MD
A trip to the doctor now could save you an admission to the hospital next year.
Priya Soni, MD

"Without these vaccines completed in a timely fashion, infants are at risk for numerous diseases," said Soni. "My biggest fear is that we will start seeing a reemergence of completely preventable infections like meningitis, measles or mumps, and that's the last thing we need right now."

Soni said her advice to parents is that they take their children – especially those under 2 years old – for the routine vaccines. She said most pediatric practices have implemented extra “COVID-19” safeguards that include limiting the number of patients in waiting areas to avoid crowding. They are also using appropriate personal protective equipment, and regularly screening their staff members for signs of infection. 

At this time of increased health concerns, Soni believes parents should be using their pediatricians as a health resource. If children don't need an office visit, telehealth consultations are an excellent option. Pediatricians can tell a great deal just by observing the child on-screen, and problems such as simple rashes can often be addressed via telehealth.

Soni said that in the next year we will see the results of our actions now. Many of the impacts to delayed vaccines won’t be evident until children start mingling again when schools reopen. What we want to avoid, she said, are large percentages of children being behind on vaccines now, leading to increased hospitalizations next year for diseases that are preventable.

"A trip to the doctor now,” said Soni, “could save you an admission to the hospital next year."

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: Going to the Doctor During COVID-19: What You Need to Know