As more school districts make the decision to begin the school year fully remote, doctors are urging parents to bring their children in for routine immunizations.
“Vaccines are an important part of keeping your child healthy,” says Dr. Julie Holland, vice president of pediatric primary care for the Chicagoland Children’s Health Alliance. “Keeping kids at home and socially distanced is important, but so is vaccinating them against life-threatening diseases.”
Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a decrease in the number of vaccines given to children compared to this time last year as many parents opt to stay home and skip routine pediatrician appointments. Dr. Holland explains that when vaccinations aren’t kept up to date, our population faces the loss of herd immunity. Herd immunity protects the entire population from diseases, including individuals who are too young for immunizations or who have conditions that prevent them.
She adds there are vaccine-preventable diseases children develop while isolated at home, such as certain types of meningitis.
“Parents are doing the right thing by keeping their kids home as much as possible,” she says, “but we want to emphasize that one of the most important things you can do to keep your child healthy is to bring them in for needed vaccinations.”
And as flu season approaches, what do parents need to know? Dr. Holland says flu vaccines generally arrive in doctor’s offices in early September. Within the next month, offices should have a good supply and be able to start vaccinating patients.
It’s also important to remember that flu symptoms can be similar to COVID symptoms.
“Both diseases generally start with an abrupt onset of fever, chills and cough,” says Dr. Holland. “People can get quite sick with either. If we have a flu epidemic and a COVID pandemic going on at the same time, it’s going to continue overwhelming our hospitals and resources.”
Because of the overlap in symptoms, clinicians are also concerned that many patients with flu will also need to be tested for COVID.
“We know these are in short supply, so we need to ensure COVID tests are available for patients who need them. One great way to do that is to make sure fewer people get the flu,” says Dr. Holland.