By David Polzin, MD, Family Medicine
Parents have a lot on their minds so to help remember to schedule their children’s annual well-child visits, they often use the child’s birth month or schedule them before the school year. We all know this year is an exception, unlike anything we have ever seen. Across the country, some families are choosing to postpone their child’s annual well-child visit until a later date when the threats of COVID-19 are lower. Being cautious and using common sense during the pandemic is smart. However, it is extremely important to keep up with well-child visits and vaccination schedules for children of all ages during this time. Even if we think our child’s risk of getting any of these diseases is low, the diseases still exist and can infect anyone who is not protected.
Routine vaccination is an essential preventive care service – especially for infants who are at risk of getting vaccine-preventable diseases during their most vulnerable early months – children, and teens. They should definitely not be delayed during the pandemic. The vaccine schedule covers about 14 different preventable diseases and are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Many of the vaccinations are combined because they are just as effective given in combination. This is a practical approach for parents and less traumatic for children. Although a small number of children can have a reaction to a vaccine, the important thing to keep in mind is that the benefits of vaccinations far outweigh the possible side effects.
Why are vaccinations and boosters needed?
Children are vaccinated and adults receive booster shots for two reasons. First, to protect ourselves. Some diseases that are rare in the United States, like polio and mumps, still thrive in other parts of the world. Travelers can and do bring these unwanted viruses back with them. The protection provided by these vaccines prevent illness and help reduce the spread of diseases. The second reason to be vaccinated is to protect those around us. A small number of persons cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons such as a severe allergy or they simply do not respond to vaccines. These persons are susceptible to disease and must rely on others to help protect them.
The list of immunizations your child has received is on record at their clinic. If they’ve been had vaccines at several clinics, the compiled record is available from the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection (MIIC). It is a good idea for parents to keep track of this as well, and think of it as an essential document.
If your child received some of their immunizations as an infant and missed their booster shots between ages four to six, you don’t have to go back and start over for most vaccines. The previous immunizations are still good, your doctor will just resume the immunization schedule.
More than vaccinations; Focus on Growth and Health
Well-child visits are not only about keeping up with vaccinations. Although disease prevention is important, so is the assessment of your child’s growth and milestone development, along with early detection and discussion of anything that is concerning. Your healthcare provider is happy to answer questions about your child’s development and immunization history to ensure you are protecting them and others from dangerous diseases that can easily be prevented.