While health care professionals work tirelessly to curb the spread of COVID-19, pediatricians are offering a friendly reminder to parents to stay on top of their children’s immunizations.
“The last thing we would want to see is an increase in vaccine-preventable illnesses as a consequence of this pandemic,” said Dr. Katherine Addison , a pediatrician at Novant Health Dilworth Pediatrics.
Adhering to a vaccine schedule can ward off serious conditions such as pertussis (commonly known as whooping cough), measles, mumps, tetanus and polio. The World Health Organization said recently in a statement that a “disruption of immunization services, even for brief periods, will result in increased numbers of susceptible individuals and raise the likelihood of outbreak-prone vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) such as measles.”
“We need to keep bad bacteria from rearing its ugly head in the community,” Dorsey said. “It's important to maintain that protection in a vulnerable population, like kids under two. Their immune systems are not as strong. They're not as developed. So, when we continue those vaccine schedules, we're promoting health not only for the kids, but also we're reducing the spread within the community.”
Many Novant Health clinics, including Novant Health Arboretum Pediatrics 51, are finding creative ways to continue in-person visits. In some cases, Dorsey completes the visit in the parking lot, administering a vaccine while the child is in their car seat. In other cases, the child may need to come inside. As an added precaution, the clinic has designated certain entrances and office hours for well and sick visits.
Other visits are solely virtual – completed from the safety of home. Anxiety over the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted more than 33,000 video visits at Novant Health since March 12. The service allows you to meet with a provider from the comfort of your home.
“Our goal is to minimize physical contact – unnecessary physical contact between patients, and doctors and nurses in our office,” Dorsey said.
Dorsey estimates about 75% of his patient appointments can be handled virtually right now – anything from feeding questions, reflux, constipation, abdominal pain and routine wellness checks. He also noted a decrease in sick visits.
“Fortunately, because schools have been out, there has not been as much cold and cough in our Charlotte community. So, the traditional office visits that we have seen in the past with fever, runny nose, cough, wheezing, sore throats – those have been minimalized.”
Dorsey said Novant Health providers will work with patients on a case-by-case basis to determine if a visit should be postponed or moved virtually.
“My advice to parents who have concerns regarding checkups would be to call their doctor and talk to them about that and see what can be done. Some doctors might suggest just to put it off until the summer and then other doctors might say, ‘Hey, it's best to maintain your office visits via video, or potentially have the exam done in parking lot with appropriate protective gear’,” Dorsey said.
Parents are encouraged to contact their pediatrician to learn more.
Novant Health team members are on the front lines in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Novant Health Foundation has established a new fund dedicated to supporting our teams, as well as the overall response to the pandemic. Contributions will support team members and help fund testing and medication to support patient care, as well as medical supplies. To donate, click here.