Your Little one’s Vaccines: What You Must Know About Catching Up Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic
By Irène Mathieu, University of Virginia
This spring, after home stay orders were announced and schools across the country closed, many families stopped going to their pediatrician. As a result, children have defaulted on important childhood vaccinations.
Vaccination rates dropped sharply after mid-March and dropped by up to 60% in some regions of the country. Nationwide, vaccination rates among recipients of Medicaid and children’s health insurance programs under the age of 2 fell by 22%.
Now that kids are returning to pediatricians like me, many parents have questions to catch up.
Why is it a problem that my child is lagging behind on vaccines?
Vaccines protect your child from serious communicable diseases such as brain infections, pneumonia, bloodstream infections and, in the case of the HPV and hepatitis B vaccines, even some cancers. The vaccination schedule we use is designed to maximize your child’s protection throughout life.
In addition to protecting your child, vaccines protect others by reducing the circulation of dangerous germs in our communities – we call this “herd immunity”.
Herd immunity is especially important to protect people who cannot receive certain vaccines for medical reasons. If enough people are vaccinated, a disease can go away completely. For example, almost 95% of people need to be vaccinated against measles to stop the transmission of this virus. If the number of people adequately vaccinated is too low, the entire community is at risk of an outbreak.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues across the country, the last thing we need is for another deadly disease to break out.
How do I find out what my child needs to catch up?
This will depend on your child’s age and what vaccines they have already received. The best way to find out what your child needs is to call your pediatrician and ask. There is a clear “catch-up plan” that we use to find out which vaccines a child needs and when they can be given.
Many parents fear that receiving too many shots at the same time could be dangerous. However, the amount of material that is in any vaccine is very, very small compared to all of the different germs and substances our children breathe, eat and drink every day, not to mention who they are exposed to when they scratch a knee or an elbow.
According to current guidelines, there really aren’t too many recordings at the same time, although some recordings cannot be submitted together on the same day.
What if my child is not doing well when the pediatrician tries to give the vaccines?
It is perfectly safe for most children to receive vaccines if they have a mild illness – including a fever. Vaccines are also no less effective when given when your child is sick.
It is understandable that taking many pictures at once can be annoying for the child if your child is not feeling well. You can talk to your pediatrician about which recordings are most critical and ask your child to get those first and the rest on another day. At the same time, we want people to stay at home as much as possible to protect people from COVID. Therefore, try to do all of your childcare in as few visits as possible.
Does my child really need the flu shot?
The effectiveness of the flu shot varies each year. It’s not 100% effective, but we recommend it anyway as this vaccine will lower your child’s risk of dying from the flu if they get sick.
Unfortunately, 188 children died from the flu in the United States last year. Many of these children were perfectly healthy before they got sick. Most of those who died had not received a flu shot.
Other parents fear that the flu shot itself will make their child sick.
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The injected influenza vaccine is made from the dead flu virus, so it is not possible to get the flu from the vaccine. However, the shot may cause a mild fever, tiredness, or sore muscles and swelling when the shot is fired. These are signs that the body’s immune system is responding to the vaccine, exactly what we want! In this way, the body trains itself to recognize the flu virus. When children come into contact with the virus later, their bodies know how to fight it.
Should my child get the COVID-19 vaccine if one is available?
It’s too early to make recommendations on who should get a COVID-19 vaccine. It is highly unlikely that a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 will be widely available before 2021.
With COVID still circulating in our communities, it is even more important that we all work to keep children safe from other deadly diseases as well as possible.
Irène Mathieu, Pediatrician, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Virginia
This article is republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.