The greatest threat to our children’s health is not COVID-19
As a pediatrician, I have many parents ask me about how they can protect their children’s health during the pandemic. Concerns have only increased with the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in our community. My advice for keeping kids safe is not always what parents expect.
The greatest risk to the kiddos under my care is not COVID-19; it is failing to complete their well-child checks and receive vaccinations. This could create new health crises that are extremely harmful to our children yet entirely preventable.
Specifically, I am concerned children are not being immunized for measles, which is a highly contagious airborne disease without a cure and potentially severe complications. It is also preventable through vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has raised the alarm that fewer children are receiving routine immunizations to protect them against vaccine-preventable diseases.
Vaccines for measles and other contagious diseases are recommended during well-child checks, which are important for those under 18 years of age and are particularly important for children 24 months and younger. Well-child checks are also critical for children’s growth and development. It is important to flag developmental delays as early as possible so pediatricians can recommend health interventions.
Still, despite the importance of well-child checks, parents continue to ask me if it is safe to bring in their children while COVID-19 is in our community. My response is yes - please keep your appointment or schedule your next well-child check. There are a number of precautions we’ve put in place to make your clinic visit as safe and easy as possible.
For example, at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, we’re scheduling well-child and sick visits on different days or in different facilities, with extended hours on evenings and Saturdays.
We’ve also created a formal telehealth system that, when appropriate, allows for video and phone check-ins and care planning for certain developmental and mental health conditions.
This is in addition to other safety measures that have been put in place across the UI Health Care system, including:
- Physically separating COVID-19 patients and using isolation protocol
- Implementing extra cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, rooms, etc. in our facilities
- Creating new hand hygiene locations throughout our clinics and hospitals
- Limiting visitors to support social distancing
- Limiting entry points so everyone is screened for signs and symptoms of respiratory illness
- Providing face shields for all staff members to prevent the spread of illness
- Providing face masks or shields to all patients and visitors to prevent the spread of illness
It’s completely normal to have questions or be hesitant about visiting your child’s doctor during the COVID-19 era. If you have delayed immunization visits, call your pediatrician today to talk through any hesitations you have about going to their office. Knowing the safety measures they have in place just might ease your mind.
Rami Boutros, MD, is Executive Medical Director of Off-site Ambulatory Programs at University of Iowa Health Care and a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital.