Thrive-Health Guide Southern West Virginia August 2020 - Page 27

By WVU Health Sciences Even during the COVID-19 global pandemic, West Virginia University pediatricians Dr. Lisa Costello and Dr. Kathryn S. Moffett recommend parents and caregivers continue their children’s routine well child visits to screen for health and development and immunizations to prevent outbreaks of more common diseases. “We must emphasize that ‘routine’ well child care is not to be put off,” said Moffett, Professor of Pediatrics for the West Virginia University School of Medicine. “The importance of well child care is to keep children well. In the face of COVID-19, this is more important than ever.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, immunization rates among children have fallen between 60 and 80 percent. According to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the reduction in vaccination rates has largely been the result of fewer parents taking their children to see their doctor. The decrease in immunizations are particularly concerning because a secondary outbreak of an infectious disease, such as measles or whooping cough, could arise alongside the COVID-19 pandemic. While missed vaccinations alone is worrisome, avoiding visits to pediatric offices also results in missed anticipatory guidance, lost opportunities to identify mental health concerns and delayed diagnosis of diseases or conditions that can respond to early intervention. Going to the pediatrician, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, is both important and safe. Pediatric practices are open, committed and prepared to continue seeing patients during this public health emergency. In recent months, pediatricians have introduced additional innovations in the way they deliver primary care to offer a safe environment for patients and families. Pediatricians are offering telehealth care, organizing office visits into well-care and sickcare blocks, and instituting infection control measures ranging from removing seats and toys in the waiting room to conducting drive-through testing and vaccinations. In the coming months, pediatricians will be called upon to respond to an influx of children returning to catch up on their routine vaccines. This fall, they will need to vaccinate children against influenza in what will be an especially critical flu season and will need to prepare for the widespread delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine. Once a COVID-19 vaccine is available, ensuring that children and adolescents are quickly immunized against the disease will be a crucial component of a national strategy to keep Americans healthy, end social distancing, and strengthen America’s economy. However, several obstacles threaten to impede the nation’s ability to carry out this effort. Largely driven by online misinformation, an increasing number of parents in recent years have become more hesitant to vaccinate their children according to expert recommendations. Restoring confidence in the safety and effectiveness of childhood vaccines will be crucial to ensuring uptake of a COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines are safe and effective, and they are held to very high safety standards. Before a vaccine is ever recommended for use, it’s tested in labs and vetted through clinical trials. Even once a vaccine is approved, it continues to be tested for quality and safety. “It is essential we continue to protect children from the diseases that can be prevented through immunization, during a pandemic and always,” said Costello, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the West Virginia University School of Medicine and President of the WV Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Vaccines keep communities healthy, and protect us all, including some of the most vulnerable in our society, including the elderly, and children who are too young to be vaccinated or have compromised immune systems. “Routine childhood immunization is one of the crown achievements in public health over the past century,” she continued. “Robust medical evidence continues to show that vaccines are safe. Vaccines are effective. Vaccines save lives.” AUGUST 2020 • THRIVE • 27