Vaccines Against Childhood Illnesses Remain Critically Important

Well Care is the Cornerstone of Pediatric Medicine

Mumps, rubella, whooping cough and other diseases may seem like childhood illnesses of old. Thanks to vaccines, many of these potentially fatal diseases are rare. However, as evidenced by multiple measles outbreaks in the U.S. in the past few years, failure to immunize newborns against these diseases can have serious consequences.

In fact, pediatricians are extremely concerned, during the height of the COVID-19’s stay-at-home orders, that there was a dramatic decline in childhood well-visits and vaccinations. This concern has been documented by the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

The pediatric primary and specialty care practices of The Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s University Hospital remained open and continued seeing patients throughout the height of the pandemic.

Pediatricians continually reached out to patient families, especially parents of newborns, and were able to maintain upward of 75 percent of necessary well-care visits, in the past few months, noted David Jaipersaud, executive director of Saint Peter’s Children’s Hospital.

However, pediatricians including Michael Lucas, MD, FAAP, and medical director of the Pediatric Faculty Group at Saint Peter’s University Hospital, remain concerned. He said the result of families not following recommended immunization protocols could become a huge global health crisis.

“Vaccines help keep children safe from so many diseases that are active and can have devastating effects,” he explained. “Even though right now there is a heavy focus on the coronavirus, vaccinations against childhood illnesses remain critically important.

These diseases are very real and can put children in the hospital. As a pediatrician, I know how important protecting these children is, not only for themselves but for our entire public health system.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has already identified the recent decrease in vaccinations during COVID-19 as a “major public health threat.”

“If we lapse on vaccinations,” added Dr. Lucas, “we will have a large group of kids who are unvaccinated against these illnesses and there could be major resurgences of diseases we thought were dormant.” Additionally, well visits are incredibly important for infants — far beyond necessary vaccinations. “Well care is the cornerstone of pediatric medicine,” said Dr. Lucas. “We use well care visits to offer guidance for families about what to expect as their child is going through different stages of development.”

During routine well-care visits, pediatricians can monitor the child’s growth and development. Milestones such as weight, head circumference and length are monitored so any concerns can be identified and managed appropriately.

“The reason why we have a routine child well-visit schedule that we follow is because things are happening during infancy and toddler years that are changing on a month-to-month basis,” Dr. Lucas explained. “It’s important to pick up those changes — either in a good way or in a way we don’t like.”

If a child is not growing according to schedule or not meeting developmental milestones on time, such as motor skills, rolling over, sitting, crawling, etc., it can be noted early.

“The faster we see those things, like if the child isn’t growing correctly or meeting milestones, the faster we can intervene, speak to the parents and do something so it doesn’t become a major issue for the child.”