Most parents understand the importance of childhood vaccines to fight illnesses such as whooping cough and measles. But during the coronavirus pandemic, many parents have been putting off routine checkups and vaccines—afraid a trip to the doctor’s office is too risky.
This trend is worrying to many physicians.
“While I understand people are concerned about coronavirus, another concern is that we’re starting to see the emergence of diseases that were previously eradicated, such as measles and mumps,” says Karthya Potti, MD, a family medicine physician at Main Line Health. “We’ve all heard about the measles outbreaks that occurred over the past few years, and that will become a more serious issue if children aren’t vaccinated.”
Dr. Potti says routine vaccines are the safest and most effective way to protect children from many childhood diseases, including hepatitis, mumps and whooping cough. “There is a lot of misinformation out there,” she says. “Vaccines are safe, and people often forget how dangerous these illnesses can be. Many also spread very easily from person to person, so getting your child vaccinated helps protect the whole community.”
She says children who are not vaccinated risk getting both COVID-19 and another disease, such as measles, at the same time, which could cause serious illness.
In addition to other routine vaccines, children need the flu vaccine each year to protect against the most common strains of flu for that season. It’s recommended for all people ages six months and older. “Flu can be especially serious in young children,” says Dr. Potti. Although not always 100% effective, a flu shot can make the illness less severe if you do get sick. It takes roughly two weeks after getting the shot for immunity to develop, so physicians recommend getting the vaccine as early as possible.
Dr. Potti encourages parents not to skip these important vaccines.
“We understand that parents feel anxious about the pandemic, and we’re doing all we can to keep people safe,” she says. That means taking extra steps to protect both patients and staff, including screening patients before visits, wearing masks and eye protection, and having patients wait in their cars until they are ready to be seen. If you have questions about coronavirus or the safety of vaccines in general, Dr. Potti suggests contacting your provider. “I’m always happy to talk with parents and answer questions. We‘re here as a community to get through this.”