Keeping Children Healthy: The Importance of Well-Visits
May 27, 2020
Due to the Current Pandemic, Is It Still Safe to Bring My Baby to the Doctor?
Visits to doctors have decreased in many areas of the country because parents are afraid to potentially expose their children to COVID-19. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who aren’t going to their well-child appointments means a drop in vaccine rates and that children aren’t getting other important care like physical exams and developmental screenings.
What you may not know is that doctors and their office staff have been taking measures to protect patients, families and staff.
Here are some examples:
Separating sick and well visits into certain times of the day or week to decrease risk of exposure.
Requiring all staff to wear masks, gloves and eye protection for every visit.
Extra cleaning between visits.
Decreasing the number of appointments to limit the number of people in the waiting room at one time.
Well-child appointments are just as important as they have ever been; it is more vital than ever to stop the spread of preventable diseases. From 1994-2018 worldwide, 419 million illnesses, 8 million hospitalizations and 936,000 deaths have been prevented in children due to vaccination. Vaccines are currently available against 16 different illnesses.
Let’s Take a Look at the History of a Few Vaccine Preventable Diseases.
In the 1940’s and 50’s, polio epidemics occurred across the country. Schools, swimming pools, movie theaters and other venues would close in summer months. Summer was a time of fear for parents because that is when outbreaks would occur. 1952 was the worst year on record, with 58,000 cases, 3,200 deaths and 21,000 cases that resulted in paralysis. Parents celebrated when a vaccine was announced in 1953. Polio is now eliminated in the US.
In the early 1900’s diphtheria was a dreaded childhood illness that caused significant illness and death. In the 1920s, there were an estimated 100,000-200,000 cases of diphtheria per year in the United States, with 13,000-15,000 deaths. Currently, due to the vaccine, there have been 5 cases in the US in the last decade.
In 1958, the US had 763,094 cases of measles, the highest number in history. A vaccine was introduced in 1963. Cases decreased after that and measles was determined to be eliminated in the US in 2000, with 86 cases that year. Measles cases have increased in recent years due to reduced vaccination rates. There were 1249 cases in 2019 which was the highest numbers in 25 years. The US has almost lost its Measles elimination status due to these outbreaks.
I Don’t Know Anyone Who Has These Diseases That We Vaccinate Against, Why Do I Still Need to Vaccinate My Child?
Vaccines are based on the principle of herd immunity, which means that a certain percentage of the population have to either have had the illness or have been vaccinated against it in order for outbreaks (or a rise in the number of disease cases) not to occur. Herd immunity for most vaccines is achieved between 80-90% vaccination rates.
Over the past several years, vaccination rates have been dropping, especially in certain areas around the country. This is why it is so important to ensure that your child is vaccinated, to keep the rates up to prevent these diseases from spreading.
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