The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it. Many families have done the right thing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by wearing masks, practicing social distancing, washing hands more often, and staying home as much as possible, which has been effective in bringing infection rates down to lower rates. Unfortunately, as part of staying home, many parents have postponed doctor’s visits during the pandemic, and as a result, many of Florida’s children have fallen behind on their immunizations. While staying home keeps you and your children safe, routine check-ups – especially those where children get their shots – are essential for making sure your children are protected against vaccine preventable diseases throughout the pandemic and beyond.
Why are shots important? Vaccines protect our community and future generations by keeping diseases that we have eliminated from making a comeback. What most of us don’t realize is that before the turn of the century, diseases like whooping cough, measles, rubella and Haemophilus influenza — which is not the same as the flu — struck hundreds of thousands of American infants, children and adults, many of whom died as a result. Thousands of children were also stricken with polio and either died or became permanently paralyzed.
As vaccines were developed and became widely used, rates of these diseases declined. Because of this, many parents believe that their child is not at risk anymore. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While the likelihood of your child coming down with measles, polio, chicken pox or whooping cough might be quite low today, history tells us if we stop vaccinating, the diseases will return. Also, immunizations aren’t just for protecting ourselves, they help protect the people around us who may not be able to receive vaccines like newborns, cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, patients with compromised immune systems, and the elderly.
Whether your child is attending school in-person or not, or going back to daycare or staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important now than ever to make sure your child’s immunizations are up-to-date to ensure they stay healthy and protect everyone around them.
If you are hesitant to bring your kids in for a well-visit, it may help to remember that doctors’ offices are doing everything they can to ensure your safety, including taking extra steps to ensure their offices are properly sanitized and creating appointment schedules that help keep sick patients and well patients separated to prevent exposure. Let’s protect our children from vaccine-preventable diseases and the flu. Contact your pediatrician to discuss your options and make an appointment today!
Lisa Gwynn, DO, MBA, FAAP
President, Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics