Pediatricians Fear Drop In Immunization Rate

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Parents fearful of the coronavirus are shying away from pediatrician offices. That means children are missing some critical immunizations for childhood diseases such as measles, opening the door to outbreaks of illnesses dangerous to young people. 

According to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, state-supplied pediatric vaccine doses were down 13-percent in March and 43-percent in April 2020, compared with last March and April.

Dr. Juana Salazar, physician-in-chief executive vice president of Academic Affairs at Connecticut Children’s, said he’s not surprised that there’s been a decrease. 

“It may be anywhere between 15 and 20-percent of kids under the age of 18 months who haven’t really followed their routine scheduled vaccinations,” Salazar said. 

However, pediatricians are coming up with some creative ways to make parents feel safe. 

“They’re approaching it in several ways. Some pediatricians are doing a drive-thru so they can give a vaccine in the car,” Salazar said. 

Dr. Ken Spiegelman, a pediatrician in Manchester, said they are asking parents to call from the car before coming into the office and answer a series of questions about their health. 

“They will then enter -- if they pass that questionnaire -- our waiting room where they will have their temperature taken, both them and their child. We are now asking parents and a child who is over 2 years of age to wear a mask. They will then enter a room. Our practitioner will see them, do the appropriate physical, and administer the vaccination,” Spiegelman said. 

There are a number of vaccines given in the first 18 months that parents should not delay or miss if they can help it, Salazar said. 

The Prevnar vaccine, which prevents the bacteria that causes pneumonia, and the MMR vaccine, which prevents measles, mumps, and rubella, are two of the shots that Salazar says should not be missed.

“Obviously, there is a little bit of leeway, so that I don’t want to create more anxiety in a parent who missed it by a day or a week or maybe even 10 days. It is imperative that you try and follow as closely as possible the schedule recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics,” Salazar said. 

Amy Pisani of Vaccine Your Family said it’s understandable that parents are nervous about going into a health care setting. 

However, parents need to be aware that vaccines take two weeks to be effective so they should plan accordingly if they plan to enroll their child in daycare or summer camp over the next few months as things begin to reopen. 

“We’re all being kept in quarantine, but both children and adults are not getting vaccinated on time now. And there are diseases just laying in the wait,” Pisani said. “Look at measles, it’s the most contagious illness, we’ve always said it’s the most contagious illness out there, maybe it’s not as contagious as COVID, we’ll soon find out. But it’s just waiting and we already had a drop in rates in Connecticut from people declining vaccines, so putting those two scenarios together -- it’s a really great fear for Vaccinate Your Family that we’re going to have some type of outbreak.” 

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