Even During COVID-19, Don't Skip Your Child's Shots

Featured Speaker

James Black, MD

James Black, MD

James Black, MD is a Pediatrician for Aspirus.

About this Podcast

Dr. James Black explains the importance of parents keeping their child's vaccines and appointments up to date during the pandemic.


Melanie Cole (host): Families are focused on staying healthy during this pandemic and that is the right thing to do. But health experts have an important reminder for parents. COVID-19 prevention shouldn't mean skipping your child's vaccinations. Welcome to Aspirus Health Talk. I'm Melanie Cole. And today we're discussing why it's so important not to miss your child's well visits and vaccinations. Joining me is Dr. James Black. He's a Pediatrician for Aspirus. Dr. Black, it's a pleasure to have you join us today. Why is it so important for parents not to skip their child's vaccinations at this time?

Dr. James Black (Guest): Vaccinations prevent a number of diseases that affect children. Some of them affect children, even from a very young age, and even in a time when we're experiencing a new virus that COVID-19 virus, these other diseases and the viruses and bacteria that caused them are still around and they can still cause major illness for children and some of them cause fatalities in children. So it's something that we're strongly encouraging parents not to let their children get behind on these routine vaccinations.

Host: So Dr. Black, then how does COVID-19 factor into the decision making process for parents that might be on the fence about whether or not to have their child vaccinated. Tell us a little bit about what you tell parents that say I'm not really comfortable coming in, or, you know, whatever they say to you.

Dr. Black: We are being very careful in our clinic to try to minimize any potential exposure of patients that are coming in for these health maintenance visits to prevent them from being exposed to anybody that might have the COVID-19 virus. We actually have a separate clinic with a separate entrance into the building for people that have symptoms that could be consistent with the COVID-19 virus. Other patients are brought through a different door. We also are insisting that everybody that enters a facility. Staff, as well as patients and visitors, they must wear protective face coverings while they're in the building. We believe that in this way, we can minimize as near to zero as possible, the potential risk for patients of being exposed to, and then possibly developing the COVID-19 virus.

Host: Dr. Black, before we discuss vaccinations, are you still doing televisits and how are you utilizing telehealth to help people? What do you want them to know if they would prefer to do televisits? What's going on with that?

Dr. Black: Some of our providers have become experienced at doing telehealth visits and for certain types of visits that can be fairly useful. I think, particularly for visits that may focus around mental health issues and certain other visits where a physical examination may not be as important a part of the visit. Unfortunately, for many pediatric visits, it's very important that we actually be able to examine the patient. In pediatrics, it hasn't been as useful for us doing telehealth as it has been for some other providers. Nonetheless, there are certain types of conditions in pediatrics for which telehealth can be utilized. I think, especially in the case of children that have behavioral abnormalities and in particular visits for conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, can be very usefully managed through a telehealth visit.

Host: Well, thank you for that answer. So tell us about the vaccinations that are needed for children. Just give us a brief overview, if you would starting with infancy and some of the more important ones that you would like to mention.

Dr. Black: Well, the vaccines that children get from the very beginning include the diphtheria pertussis and tetanus vaccines, as well as the polio vaccines. These are combined into some multiple vaccine products. Tetanus is a bacteria that is around all of us all of the time. We all think of going into the emergency room if we get an injury such as stepping on a rusty nail, but we have to keep in mind that tetanus infections can occur even from very minor injuries. Some of which that a person might not even be aware of. And it's very important for children to get that primary series of immunizations as infants, so that then the boosters that they get when they do have a serious injury can be effective for them. In addition to the DTAP and polio vaccines, we immunize against two very dangerous bacteria for children.

The Haemophilus influenza type B, which is the bacteria that in the past caused the greatest number of cases of meningitis. It's something that we don't see very often anymore because of the fact that we immunize children against this bacteria. But for those of us who were in practice, as I was before this vaccine became available, it was very common practice for us to have children in the hospital being treated for bacterial meningitis. And I'm sorry to say that treatment is not always successful in treating for bacterial meningitis. It's much more important to prevent this disease from occurring in the first place. In addition to Haemophilus influenza type B, we also immunized against the pneumococcus bacteria. And while based on the name, people would assume that pneumococcus must cause disease such as pneumonia, which of course is correct, but that bacteria also was responsible for many other cases of bacterial meningitis in infants.

And with the combination of the Haemophilus influenza immunization and the pneumococcal immunization, we have reduced meningitis in infants and young children to almost zero, as long as we maintain vaccinations. We're afraid that if too many parents stop getting these vaccinations, that we are going to start seeing a resurgence in cases of these easily preventable diseases, that would certainly be a great tragedy if that were to occur

Host: Well, it certainly would Doctor. So tell us a little bit about any advice that you can offer parents during this time of uncertainty, due to COVID-19? And what Aspirus hospitals and clinics are doing to assure that parents and their children are safe when visiting their pediatricians?

Dr. Black: I think that when calling in for a visit such as for well child visits, a parent will be given instructions as to how to enter the building. What door in particular is the appropriate one to come in so that you can make sure that you don't inadvertently expose yourself to patients who might have symptoms of acute illness that could be consistent with COVID-19. But in addition, there will be other instructions for how parents can keep themselves and their children safe when they come in, limiting the number of additional children that come with the family during these visits can be helpful.

Host: As we wrap up Dr. Black, what would you like to tell parents about the stress that we're all going through and to help them remain calm and manage the emotional challenges of this pandemic and while still being mindful that their child needs well visits and vaccinations, and the importance of doing that with Aspirus?

Dr. Black: Healthcare is a very important part of our daily lives. We no longer accept in modern times that diseases are likely to cause significant illness and premature deaths in our families. It's very important that we continue to monitor for the many conditions beyond COVID-19 that can cause problems for children's health. With routine visits, we can identify early when other conditions might be present that need attention, things such as heart murmurs in infants, developmental abnormalities may require special attention, screening for other unusual but still diseases that can occur at these ages. And as we all know, identifying diseases early and conditions early allows us to intervene in a way that can minimize the long-term impact of these conditions on a child's health.

For this reason, we think it's important not to stop getting the routine visits that children need, especially in the very young ages when conditions can develop so quickly. We will continue doing everything in our power to prevent any possible adverse consequences of having these routine visits, such as we mentioned earlier, about how we prevent exposure to people when they're visiting our clinic. So they don't get exposed to COVID-19, but it's very important for people to remember that these other visits are important for many other reasons, that there are many other diseases and conditions that continue to occur in children. And that it's important that we be able to identify them in an appropriate timely manner so that we can prevent the major consequences from occurring from these conditions.

Host: What an important message you gave listeners today, Dr. Black, thank you so much for coming on and sharing the importance of maintaining our children's well visits and vaccinations in these uncertain times. That concludes this episode of Aspirus Health Talk. Please visit our website at aspirus.org for more information, and to get connected with one of our providers. For more health tips, please follow us on your social channels. And please remember to subscribe, rate, and review this podcast and all the other Aspirus podcasts. I'm Melanie Cole.