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Keep Kids' Vaccines on Schedule

Updated August 4, 2021

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a decline in childhood vaccines and development screenings. However, it’s important not to skip these appointments.

In fact, by the first day of school for the 2021-2022 school year, all K-12 students in Washington state must be up to date on required vaccinations. These vaccines include Tdap, DTaP, MMR, hepatitis B, varicella and polio.

Children need their first vaccines shortly after birth. They usually get the first vaccine in the hospital before leaving to go home. Babies are born with immune systems that can fight most germs, but there are some deadly diseases they can’t handle. Getting all the necessary vaccines is one of the best things you can do for your child.

In March of 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided guidelines for routine well-child care and immunizations, especially infants and toddlers up to 2 years old. According to the CDC, “All newborns should be seen by a pediatric healthcare provider shortly after hospital discharge (three to five days of age). Ideally, newborn visits should be done in person during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to evaluate for dehydration and jaundice, ensure all components of newborn screening were completed and appropriate confirmatory testing and follow-up is arranged.”

While the vaccine schedule can vary somewhat, each well-child visit usually has some combination of shots. The CDC recommends vaccinating your child following your provider’s regular schedule to help prevent the spread of disease. Baby’s first year can include shots such as:

  • HepB: Hepatitis B
  • DTaP: Diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis vaccine
  • Hib: Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine
  • IPV: Inactivated poliovirus vaccine
  • PCV: Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine
  • RV: Rotavirus vaccine
  • Influenza (flu)

These vaccines were created to protect your baby. Unfortunately, reports show that the amount of vaccines ordered and given have dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a chance that decreasing routine childhood vaccinations increases the risk that we could see an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease.

Gregory Maddox, MD, with Overlake Clinics Primary Care in Newcastle shares that while the CDC publishes minimum immunization periods for all childhood vaccinations that allow for a catch up plan to be created, there is some data showing that children who start and remain on a primary vaccine schedule are more likely to complete the childhood vaccine schedule on time.

“We understand that life is unpredictable and children frequently fall off the typical vaccine schedule,” says Dr. Maddox. “However, it is important to work with your child’s primary care provider to develop a plan to ensure the entire schedule is completed.”

Important immunizations continue through a child’s early years. Once kids receive all the vaccines they are required to get before they start kindergarten, they should receive an annual flu shot and the HPV vaccine in the 11- to 12-year age range.

In addition to receiving vaccines, Dr. Maddox explains that the goal of a well-child check is to address other preventive health measures such as developmental screenings and assessing growth and maturity. “We also want to address any health concerns the children or their caregivers currently have,” adds Dr. Maddox.

We want to assure our patients that our clinics are safe for families to visit; many protocols and measures are in place to ensure patient safety during the current pandemic.

“We have already seen many chronic diseases that have worsened in adults due to deferred care. I worry that deferred well-child visits will result in missed or delayed care in our pediatric population, particularly in regard to developmental/learning differences and delayed diagnoses of chronic medical conditions, such as asthma,” says Dr. Maddox.

To ensure your child is up to date on their vaccinations, schedule an appointment with their pediatrician or family medicine provider today. Also, King County children ages 4-18 can get all required vaccines at upcoming free clinics in Kent, Renton, and Tukwila

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