Over the past couple of months, so many of us have changed our lives due to the realities of the novel coronavirus pandemic. And though many of those changes are aimed at maintaining our health, some could actually end up harming us or family members in the long run.
Certainly, studies indicate that responsible social distancing and the wearing of protective equipment such as masks has beneficial effects in avoiding or spreading the virus and the sickness it inflicts, COVID-19.
However, there is something else that many of us are doing in hopes of avoiding the coronavirus – and, in the long term, this approach could quite literally end up harming our health. And that is avoiding well-health appointments and check-ups – for both children and adults – as Georgia Governor Brian Kemp noted.
“Every day, we are seeing reports that more and more people are holding off on important medical screenings and vaccinations out of fear of exposure [to the coronavirus],” Kemp said in a May press conference. “Please do not risk your health by delaying important appointments. Medical providers and healthcare facilities are open and have safeguards in place for patients.”
Kemp’s pleas are backed by the medical community. And, in the case of children, it is critical to understand that avoiding well-health visits presents a serious risk for a child’s future. That is because pediatricians not only track growth and development – catching many potential problems before they further develop – they also provide vaccinations, which are crucial for the health of our entire community.
On May 19 the Epic Health Research Network published data showing that pediatric immunizations had dropped 42% in the spring of 2020 when compared to previous years. Immunizations play a critical role in pediatric preventive care by providing individual protection for children as well as overall herd immunity.
“Vaccines, quite simply, protect children from illnesses that can have devastating consequences and did in the past,” Longstreet Clinic pediatrician Dr. Curtis Malcom said. “Vaccines also help protect the population as a whole because children too young to receive immunizations are protected from these illnesses if they can be surrounded by immunized individuals. It is far safer for a child to receive immunity from a vaccine than from building immunity through the illness itself.”
Indeed, skipping vaccinations could even end up producing more illnesses in the population in future years. Vaccinating children protects not only the child getting the shot, but those children who are too young to be vaccinated or children and adults who can’t be for medical reasons.
Read more about vaccine facts and myths
Not only that, the Georgia Department of Public Heath requires students to file immunization records with their schools in order to enroll each year – and that is for students at all levels. Certainly, elementary school students require more vaccinations, but other vaccines, including the relatively new MCV4 for bacterial meningitis, are necessary for middle and high schoolers.
Longstreet Clinic Pediatrics recognizes that immunizations are an essential and effective part of preventive care. The vaccines and their schedules are derived from data and research from children over many years. Longstreet Pediatrics requires all patients to adhere to appropriate vaccination schedules except for children with a medical exemption, and pediatricians gladly counsel parents about why this is so important, now more than ever.
For a complete look at a vaccination schedule, including the vaccinations and years given, please click here.
Summer is the perfect time to make sure child immunizations are up-to-date so that they can begin the new school year come early August.
Immunizations before kindergarten
“For entry into kindergarten, a child must have immunizations to protect against chickenpox, diphtheria, hepatitis A and hepatitis B, measles, mumps, pertussis, polio, rubella and tetanus. During this age range, it is also recommended that the child receive immunizations against rotavirus. And a yearly influenza vaccine is also recommended for all children 6 months and older,” Dr. Malcom said.
Immunizations for middle and high school
“For entry into seventh grade, a booster to tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) is required. This is also when they will receive the first meningococcal shot (MCV4) followed by the second shot when entering their junior year of high school. It is also recommended to get protection against HPV starting in seventh grade. This protects against genital cancer and warts. HPV is given as a two-dose series.”
New requirements for 11th graders
Thanks to a new requirement from the Georgia Department of Public Health, before the start of the 2020-2021 school year, all students entering or transferring into 11th grade will need proof of a meningococcal booster shot (MCV4), unless their first dose was received on or after their 16th birthday. Meningitis is a serious bacterial illness affecting the brain and the spinal cord that can cause shock, coma and death within hours of the onset of symptoms. To help protect your children and others from meningitis, Georgia law requires students be vaccinated against this disease, unless the child has an exemption.
Longstreet Clinic providers also understand the concerns of parents in a world gripped by COVID-19.
“We don’t want anyone to miss their well appointments, and certainly we don’t want anyone to miss any vaccinations,” Dr. Malcom said. “So, we’re doing everything we can to make it easy on parents and give them peace of mind.
Longstreet Clinic has been following CDC guidelines for clinicians and taking the greatest precautions to ensure a safe and clean environment for all patients by:
- Temperature and illness screenings for all visitors upon entrance
- Requiring everyone inside Longstreet buildings to wear protective masks
- Requiring employees to continuously wash their hands
- Making hand sanitizer available to employees and patients throughout their campuses
- Increased sanitation of shared spaces and exam rooms
- Ensuring the separation of all sick and healthy patients in the waiting room environment and shortening the time spent in larger waiting rooms
Longstreet Clinic Pediatrics has taken the added measure of scheduling healthy visits for early in the day and sick visits in the afternoon as well as following thorough cleaning methods performed each night.
Meanwhile, for babies aged nine months and younger, Longstreet Clinic continues to offer its WeeCare office in Gainesville, which only sees well children attended by one parent (no siblings are allowed at the visit). During the pandemic, WeeCare has been expanded for well visits for children 12 months and younger.
“If anyone ever has any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call us,” Dr. Malcom said. “We want to make sure everyone understands that, just because of the pandemic, that life, ultimately, has not changed, and you cannot just ignore what you would normally have done before this happened.”