Missed a well child check? Four tips to catch up on recommended immunizations
Keeping up-to-date with children’s immunizations can be challenging for parents. Pandemic precautions have further complicated scheduling, with fewer patients being seen in many pediatricians’ offices. Service disruptions due to staff exposure to COVID-19 have also resulted in fewer available appointments.
Staying current with vaccines is especially critical while our health systems struggle to deal with the uptick in both seasonal illness and COVID cases. Vaccinations prevent childhood diseases like measles, mumps and polio and are the best strategy to deal with illness that have been a common but deadly threat in the past. Lower vaccination rates make the return of these preventable diseases a possibility, which could be particularly devastating in a pandemic and further deplete our healthcare system.
Vaccines have been proven safe and effective based on expert scientific knowledge. Approval protocol is extensive; it includes testing, documentation of side effects, evaluation and clinical trials before specialized committee consideration. Vaccine benefit far outweighs risk when it comes to avoiding more than a dozen preventable illnesses.
Doctors and researchers agree that vaccines play a critical role in public health. The World Health Organization (WHO) credits access to immunizations in reducing death, disease, disability and inequity in societies throughout the globe. According to WHO, the impact of vaccines is second only to access to clean water in preventing illness, and both are considered human rights.
While rollout plans for a COVID vaccine are currently underway, it’s not too late to get caught up on any missed well child checks or scheduled immunizations. Here are four tips to help catch up on missed childhood vaccines: Keep your upcoming appointments: Plan to attend as scheduled if you can. Doctors’ offices are currently taking precautions to make your visit as safe as possible. Well child visits are also an opportunity for providers to assess your child’s physical, mental and emotional health, a holistic evaluation that makes the visit about more than just vaccination access.
Check with your healthcare provider: Records of the immunizations your child has received are available through your doctor’s office. Although a paper immunization card is generally given to parents or caretakers at birth in a hospital setting, these documents may be misplaced over time or not reflect the most current vaccines received if the documents are not brought to every well child visit. If your pediatrician uses an online portal system, you may be able to view these records by logging in or requesting them via email.
Contact additional record-keepers if necessary: If your pediatrician can no longer provide access to your child’s records, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) may be able to help. OSDH also serves as a resource for adults who are tracking down their own immunization history, often in more than one state. Find a list of state Immunization Information Systems from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) here. Consider scheduling with your local health department: A health care provider who knows your child and can address additional concerns should be families’ first option for well child checks. However, vaccines are also available at your county health department. More flexible appointment times or mobile options can make access easier, especially for working parents.
If you have questions about which vaccines should be received when, see the OSDH list here.