Childhood immunizations have fallen sharply so far this year amid the COVID-19 state of emergency. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reports that from Jan. 1 through April 23, there was a 19 percent decrease in non-influenza vaccinations among children 0 to 8 years old, compared to the same period in 2018 and 2019. Additionally, the department reports a 27.5 percent decrease among children 9 to 18 years old.
I wanted to hear firsthand from Michigan parents about the reason for the serious drop in necessary immunizations. I reached out to one of my favorite moms, my daughter-in-law, Kary Whiteford. She said most parents in her circle are afraid to bring their children to their medical providers due to the risk of COVID-19. Regardless of state mandates and health provider recommendations, it seems many parents choose to not get their children vaccinated to avoid the risk of COVID-19.
As a mom and grandma, I understand these concerns and the conviction to do whatever we can to keep our children safe and healthy. As a pediatric nurse, I also know the vital importance of vaccinating our children against deadly infections.
With the rapid advancement of telemedicine as of late, as well as drive-thru COVID-19 testing, I believe this is the perfect time for a hybrid approach to well-child visits that include vaccinations. While DHHS has done a great job offering guidance to health care providers about catching up on their child vaccinations, I am advising medical practices to offer a hybrid approach to well-child visits.
Telemedicine allows health care professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients at a distance via telecommunications technology. These types of appointments should be utilized in tandem with traditional pediatric office visits. After an initial screening is conducted via telemedicine, parents could drive their child to the clinic where the child can receive a quick evaluation, height and weight measurement, and any necessary vaccinations to keep them healthy.
Vaccinations are an important part of keeping our children safe, and the need for them does not diminish during a pandemic like the one we have faced in recent months. It is crucial we adapt to current situations. A hybrid approach is a great option for families and medical professionals, and I encourage our health care providers to consider these options to get Michigan’s kids back on track with regular immunization.