In the age of Covid-19, any kind of trip to the doctor can feel completely fraught and anxiety-inducing. But what if you're the parent of a little one, and the child is due for vaccines? Are babies' vaccine schedules being affected by the pandemic? Should parents consider delaying their child's shots in order to avoid possible coronavirus exposure? As if you needed one more thing to worry about right now.
Dr. Whitney Casares is a pediatrician, and the author of The New Baby Blueprint: Caring for Your Little One. She tells Romper there's a simple answer: parents should absolutely keep their vaccination schedule up to date. "At this time, the American Academy of Pediatrics is still encouraging clinicians to make immunizing infants and young children (under 24 months of age) a priority whenever possible. Pediatricians are taking extra precautions to keep our youngest patients safe."
I also reached out to Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg, a pediatrician and SpokesDoctor for the American Academy of Pediatrics. She agrees that vaccines need to stay on track right now, and not be delayed, even though a parent's instinct might be to just wait until things calm down. Vaccines aren't something to be put on hold, particularly with regard to babies: "Each vaccine is important to preventing diseases that can have severe complications, so it makes sense to stay up-to-date and protect kids from diseases we know we can prevent."
Dr. Alison Mitzner is a pediatrician and wellness expert, and she reminds parents that "there are many vaccines in the early years, and delays may simply be delays in the best case, but worse case — depending on how long the delays — experts have cautioned they may cause outbreaks of preventable diseases later in the year."
If parents are worried, Mitzner says most doctors are taking every possible precaution for protecting families from Covid-19. "Offices are doing all they can to keep their patients safe. They are screening for families that may have been exposed to corona, and then if they screen positive, seeing them virtually rather than bringing them into the office," she says.
On top of pre-screening families, she says many offices are setting up specific hours for well visits and sick visits, and then limiting the number of people who may attend the appointment. And of course, they are sanitizing. "They are diligently cleaning their offices with extra attention to the doorknobs, exam tables, countertops, etc."
Dr. Trachtenberg says some pediatricians may also choose to only conduct well visits for newborns, infants, and younger children who require immunizations, and to reschedule well visits for those in middle childhood and adolescence. And if doctors have more than one practice, "they're encouraged to consider using one office location to see all well visits."
Trachtenberg says one of the big risks with delaying shots is that parents often can (accidentally) forget to reschedule. This leaves a child unprotected, which can lead to much bigger problems and concerns down the road. "If many people don't get the needed measles vaccines, the potential for another big outbreak increases."
Whitney Casares, M.D., M.P.H., author of The New Baby Blueprint: Caring for You and Your Little One and founder of www.modernmommydoc.com
Dr. Alison Mitzner, board certified pediatrician, family wellness and fitness expert