One consequence of COVID-19 pandemics is that more families are stopping their children’s protective care visits, causing pediatric providers to worry about missed vaccines.
In a recent study published in Pediatrics, researchers at Nationwide Children ‘s Hospital evaluated changes in measles vaccine levels from before the pandemic until this summer, when a return was made to promote clinical care. Finding a steep and permanent decline, the researchers are making efforts to develop a timely vaccination and provide children with safe seizure opportunities in their pediatric primary care network.
We have seen a resurgence of measles outbreaks in the U.S. and here in Ohio in recent years as fewer people have opted to receive the vaccine. We were concerned with the pandemic, that vaccine levels could fall further and that there could be a high risk of the outbreak of measles affecting everyone in the community. “
Sara Bode, MD, S.tudy L.ead A.uthor, P.rimary Pediatrician, and Medical Director of Health Clinics and Mobile Phones School Linked Childcare Link Nationwide
A nationwide primary school care network includes 12 clinic sites in Columbus, Ohio, providing care to approximately 100,000 patients. Dr Bode and her colleagues studied the proportion of these children with the measles / mumps / rubella (MMR) vaccine before the age of 16 months from March 2017 through August 2020.
They found about a 10 percent reduction in the number of children receiving their first MMR vaccine. The decline began in March 2020, when the state received its first home-stay order. Worryingly, this decline in vaccinations continued through August 2020, even as clinics opened for wellness visits.
Alex Kemper, MD, MPH, MS, head of the pediatric primary care department at Nationwide Children and co-author of the study, said it is a key message that he and his colleagues want to know safe to return to the clinic for protective care.
“We do a lot of work to let our patients and families in the community know that it is safe to come in for wellbeing walks,” said Dr Kemper. “We have made it a priority to these tours and we have opened additional meeting slots during the day and evening. “
Nationwide Children is also working with community wellbeing and school health partners to provide alternative places for children to receive seizure vaccines, including mobile and pop-up clinics. However, Dr Kemper warns that it is not very good to separate vaccines from the full range of protective services.
“We recognize that wellbeing walks provide important opportunities to assess growth and development, and to talk to families about issues such as mental health, nutrition and exercise in these challenging times,” said Dr Kemper, who also professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University College of Medicine.
Dr Bode agrees that reaching out to the community and reassuring families that a preventative visit is an important part of getting patients back to the clinics.
“Even though we are in a pandemic, visiting child well care is safe and important – in fact it is dangerous to miss the services your child needs,” said Dr Bode.
Nationwide Children ‘s Hospital