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Parents advised not to delay vaccinations
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Parents advised not to delay vaccinations

Parents wondering if they should—or even can—get routine immunizations for their infants and children during these uncertain times are advised to maintain those schedules, say local health experts.

In April, news reports indicated that parents and pediatricians around the country, concerned about the dangers of coronavirus, were delaying immunizations. At the time the World Health Organization expressed concerns that delays would lead to “outbreaks of preventable diseases later in the year.”

Locally, there has been a little reluctance of parents bringing children to clinics, particularly after the early weeks of the pandemic when many wellness check hours were cancelled.

“We’re seeing delays in routine checkups,” notes Dr. Shari Rocco, pediatrician with Aurora Medical Center. “Children who are older than 2 are having their well checks delayed so they’re having delayed vaccinations.”

These delays, she emphasized, have not been driven by parents but Advocate Aurora “following social distancing recommendations of the CDC.”

“We haven’t heard of parents intentionally delaying vaccinations, but I’m sure there are anxieties out there,” according to Dr. George Poullette, family practice physician with the Froedtert South Medical Group of Froedtert South, Pleasant Prairie.

“Six weeks ago our response was to ask what the safest option was so for people who were really ill, we said let’s put (wellness) appointments off,” Poullette said.

Timely vaccinations, however, are vital, stress health officials.

“Delaying the timetable could result in less of a resistance/ no resistance to certain diseases and illnesses,” said Evan Gorr, a registered nursed with Kenosha County Division of Health.

The childhood vaccination schedule is a formula worked out to get children immune to vaccine preventable diseases such as measles as soon as possible. “At two months old a child’s system is able to handle immunizations so the sooner the better after that,” Poullette said.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics designated ages 2 and younger as the most critical time to stay on the vaccine schedule,” Rocco said. Booster shots, administered to children entering kindergarten and to teens, are also critical, she added.

Not getting the immunizations is harmful to others as well, Gorr said. “It also puts those that are immunocompromised or unable to get vaccines at further risk for contracting preventable diseases or disorders.”

“It could also lead to school exclusions when a child is enrolled in public education,” Gorr added.

“Vaccinations can put off for a few weeks and it’s not the end of the world as far as immune status is concerned, but there are ideal spacing times,” Poullette said.

The good news is that local medical facilities are working on ways to ensure that vaccinations can still take place while keeping parents and children as safe as possible.

“Our clinic has always been open; we put (wellness visits) off, but now we are now encouraging patients to reschedule,” Poullette said.

Rocco said she and her staff assure parents that strict procedures are in place for families bringing in their children for vaccinations at this time.

“On the morning of an appointment, parents are called and questioned about the health of everyone in their household, including children coming to the medical facility. On-site temperatures are taken and face masks are issued,” she said.

“We are scheduling wellness appointments (and immunizations) in the morning, video (telemedicine) appointments in the afternoon and later in the day seeing patients with (more severe symptoms),” Poullette said.

“Usually when we explain (our procedures) to parents they’re more than happy to bring the child in to get their vaccines,” Rocco said.

“All recommended vaccines are important to your child’s health. If your child is 2 and under, we recommend keeping those routine checkup appointments to ensure your child stays up to date on these important vaccines,” Rocco said.

For older children, however, Rocco says that parents should call the child’s provider “and see what they recommend for a vaccine schedule at this time.”

“I do think there are patients who have had concerns about coming in,” Poullette said. “To those who have put off (immunization appointments) I say ,‘Yes, let’s reschedule and get back to doing these things again.’ “

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