Across the U.S., vaccination rates and well-child visits are declining. According to data released by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 2.5 million fewer orders for routine vaccines (excluding flu vaccine) provided through the federally funded Vaccines for Children (VFC) program from mid-March to mid-April 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. And in Colorado, vaccinations have declined by an estimated 40% since the beginning of March.
This trend results from parents’ not bringing their children in for well-child checks and vaccination appointments, in large part out of compliance with states’ stay-at-home orders (which were enacted across the country throughout most of March and April), but also out of fear that a trip to the doctor could increase the chance of contracting COVID-19.
Public health experts worry that these delays in vaccination could result in additional outbreaks of disease—something which would only exacerbate the enormous economic and human costs of the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Colorado Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP) and CDC have been calling for pediatric care providers to continue to provide well-care and vaccinations, especially for children under two years of age.
Not only is well-care important for ensuring kids stay up to date with vaccines (and protected from the diseases they prevent), it is also critical for tracking kids’ growth and development, addressing mental health concerns and chronic health issues, and providing guidance on nutrition and behavior.
To address the sharp decline in well-visits and vaccinations and help pediatric care providers urge patients to keep and schedule appointments, top Colorado public health organizations produced a toolkit, the Colorado Pediatric Provider Toolkit: Caring for Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The comprehensive toolkit, jointly released by AAP Colorado, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and Immunize Colorado, includes resources and modifiable templates for pediatric providers to use in their efforts to connect with families and encourage them not to forgo well-child checks and vaccinations. The toolkit also includes sample social media posts and tools for connecting with the media to ensure the public knows that these health care services remain essential for infants, children and adolescents.
AAP Colorado, CDPHE and Immunize Colorado hope that these easy-to-use resources will assist providers in their continued efforts to reach out to families and emphasize the role that pediatric providers play in keeping children healthy.
After all, pediatric care providers’ number one priority is the safety of their pediatric patients.