This blog has been updated on the Public Health Insider site and encourages vaccinations for children of all ages now.
Written by Annika Hofstetter MD PhD MPH, Doug Opel, MD, MPH, Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
The COVID-19 pandemic has truly upended how we normally live our lives. Every day brings new challenges and questions for parents to figure out. Amidst a lot of uncertainty, one thing remains clear: vaccinations continue to be one of the best ways to protect your children’s health, now and into the future.
Continue to bring your baby or toddler to the clinic for vaccinations
Vaccinations help keep all children safe but that’s especially true for children under the age of two. It is important to review these ways to protect yourselves and your loved ones during COVID-19. This includes focusing on the essentials during the current Stay Home – Stay Healthy order, such as washing our hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds, getting plenty of rest, going for walks (while avoiding others), and keeping in touch with family and friends through phone or video calls.
For parents with babies or toddlers, also remember: visit the doctor for baby and toddler wellness check-ups.
Doctors and clinics are adapting to provide safe environments for families
With all the quickly changing information out there, it can be hard to know how best to protect your children’s health. You might worry that bringing your child to the doctor means your family could get exposed to COVID-19. Or you might think it’s better to delay or cancel well-child visits so that your healthcare provider can focus on sick patients.
As a result, many parents are delaying or cancelling well-child visits.
However, doctors’ offices have made many changes since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the risk to children is low and families feel safe. Many offices are only offering well child appointments. Other offices are offering well child appointments in the morning and sick child appointments during the afternoons, with a deep clean overnight. That means you don’t have to worry about sharing a waiting room with someone who may have COVID-19.
We checked in by phone and stayed outside until ready, then were taken to a room straight away, which was sanitized after we left. It was reassuring to see all the steps the office was taking to minimize exposure.mother of a 14 month old boy
Talk to your doctor’s office about what measures they are taking to keep you and your child safe. If you need to use the bus or another form of public transportation to get to your child’s doctor’s office, mention this to your doctor. If you need to go to the laboratory or pharmacy, talk to your doctor about how to minimize your child’s exposure to others by staying in the clinic room until the service is ready for your child. If you or another one of your child’s guardians is at elevated risk for severe COVID-19 illness – talk to your child’s doctor about ways to decrease exposure prior to your visit. If a parent is in a high risk category, please limit exposure. If possible have another trusted caregiver bring in your child and then join the doctor visit via phone or FaceTime.
Don’t delay bringing your baby or toddler to see their doctor. Doctor visits help keep your children healthy during COVID-19.
Bringing your baby or toddler to the doctor’s office for check-ups is important even during the Stay Home-Stay Health order.
Through vaccines, you have the power to protect your children from 10 different diseases by the time they’re 18 months old. Some vaccines need multiple doses to build up your child’s immunity. Even with the Stay Home order, the benefits of vaccinating babies and toddlers through two years of age far outweigh any risks of COVID-19. Vaccinations not only protect your child from deadly diseases, but also help keep other children, older adults and other vulnerable community members safe. We can protect our families from COVID-19 while also vaccinating to prevent outbreaks of other diseases like measles, mumps and whooping cough. It is rare for COVID-19 to cause children to become severely ill, but vaccine preventable diseases can be very serious, especially for kids under the age of two. In addition to providing vaccines, your doctor will weigh and measure your baby or toddler as well as assess your baby or toddler’s development. This helps to ensure that your child is growing and developing well and that any issues are caught early.
0-2 years old is a critical vaccination and development window
Vaccinations are important for children of all ages. However, in the current environment, infants are prioritized because they are more vulnerable compared to other older children. Children who have already received their vaccines through age 2 are protected against the most dangerous diseases already while infants are at higher risk for serious illness and still need to receive vaccines to protect against vaccine-preventable diseases. Infants and toddlers also benefit from other aspects of wellness visits including growth, nutrition, and development assessments.
What does this mean for my kids that are older than 2 years old?
Clinics are planning to catch older children up on vaccines later this year or when significant social distancing has ended. If your child has received all of their shots for the first two years, you may be asked to wait to come in for vaccines until later this year and to instead schedule a phone or video visit with your child’s doctor. As the stress on the health care system lessens, clinics hope to broaden essential visits to include vaccination visits for older kids.
- WCAAP Guidance: Telehealth Well Child Care During COVID-19 Pandemic
- Well Child Visits During COVID-19 Pandemic
- COVID-19 and Immunizations