The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting stay-at-home order has kept people from visiting family, friends and the businesses they support, but one place people shouldn’t be avoiding is a doctor’s office.
In California and across the U.S., recent data show troubling decreases in childhood vaccination, leaving many children unprotected. Additionally, people have been putting off some needed medical check-ups and health officials say now is the time to get them done.
In comparison to April 2019, in April 2020, the number of shots given to children 0 through 18 years old in California decreased by more than 40 percent, according to the California Department of Public Health.
"This pandemic has disrupted so much, including how we’re seeking preventive health care services,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health and State Health Officer. “During and after the pandemic, unvaccinated infants and children will be more vulnerable to dangerous diseases like measles and whooping cough. It’s so important that parents make sure their children are up-to-date on their immunizations.”
It is recommended that parents contact their child’s doctor if they have any concerns about visiting the office. Most providers have additional safety measures in place to protect patients when visiting the clinic, such as separating sick and well children. Some clinics offer curbside clinics, where you can get care in or near your car. If your child’s healthcare provider is currently limiting well visits or vaccinations, ask about plans to catch your child up on vaccinations.
Immunizations are also recommended for pregnant women to protect the mother and newborn infant. Check with your prenatal care provider about the timing of prenatal immunizations.
The Vaccines for Children program offers free vaccines to families who cannot afford to pay for their children’s vaccines (through 19 years of age).
Other medically necessary and time-sensitive procedures for many people include mammograms, colonoscopies and skin exams and shouldn’t be ignored.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us a lot and reinforces that our health is precious. We need to do everything we can to protect it,” said Todd Smith, M.D., CEO for Sutter Valley Medical Foundation, South Valley. “As we begin our phased approach to reopening, we encourage people to take advantage of the summer months to focus on preventative services to promote their best health now.”