As COVID-19 became a full-blown pandemic in early 2020, it put many in-person events on hold, including well-child visits and regular checkups for adults. As a result, many children are now behind on their immunizations, putting them at risk for diseases that vaccines can easily prevent.
If you or your child missed vaccines, now is a great time to get caught up. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ensuring that routine vaccination is maintained during the COVID-19 pandemic is important. It protects individuals and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) strongly recommends that patients receive all necessary vaccinations on schedule in their primary care physician’s office.
Path to improved health
Routine vaccination is an essential preventive care service for children, adolescents, and adults (including pregnant women) that should not be delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, says the CDC.
Well-child services are categorized as essential services. This is because they help make sure children are protected. It’s important to work with your family doctor to make sure that vaccines are up-to-date or that you catch up on them in a timely manner.
Children need more vaccines than adults because they are building their immune systems. Regularly scheduled vaccines should follow a recommended immunization schedule. This schedule outlines when children should be vaccinated against 16 diseases. It was developed by experts who study diseases. Delaying or spreading out vaccines off schedule can put your child at risk for getting sick. The best way to protect them is to take them on time for vaccinations.
Adults need vaccines, too, especially older adults. It is recommended that healthy adults who are 50 years old and older get a shingles vaccine. Adults 65 years old or older should also get a pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) to protect against pneumonia. For adults who have a condition that weakens their immune system, a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) is recommended.
Children 6 months and older and adults also need a flu shot each year. Getting a flu shot is even more important this year, according to the CDC. This is because it can help reduce the chances of becoming sick with a respiratory illness and passing it to other people who have weak immune systems.
Things to consider
For decades, children have been offered vaccines to protect them against diseases like the measles, mumps, polio, and whooping cough. Some of these diseases can be mild, but others are dangerous and can even cause death. All of them are highly contagious.
Without vaccines, these diseases would spread quickly and endanger not only children, but the community as a whole. Routine vaccination prevents illnesses that lead to unnecessary medical visits, hospitalizations, and further strain the healthcare system, says the CDC.
If you are reluctant to take your child to the doctor during COVID-19, know that doctors have put many safeguards in place to prevent germ exposure. The CDC offers guidelines for doctors’ offices that include cleaning strategies. These strategies outline instructions for hand hygiene, office decontamination, and patient distancing.
Vaccines are safe, effective, and save lives. There is proof that childhood vaccines do not cause autism. Side effects are mild and generally include slight pain and tenderness at the site of the injection.
Questions to ask your doctor
- Can I be vaccinated if I am sick?
- Can I get the disease after I’ve gotten the vaccine?
- Is my newborn at risk of certain diseases if they aren’t old enough to get certain vaccines?
- Can I catch COVID-19 by coming into a doctor’s office?
- What are you doing to make sure your office is clean?
- What could happen if I don’t get my child vaccinated?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.