During uncertain times like the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents may be worried about how to best protect their babies. But even during the pandemic, one good way to protect your baby is by making sure she gets her vaccinations.
A vaccination is a shot that contains a vaccine. A vaccine helps protect your baby from certain diseases. Vaccines make you immune to certain diseases. Immunity helps to prevent you from getting a particular disease.
Recent research shows that vaccination rates for babies and children decreased after the U.S. declared a national emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic. This may be due to stay-at-home orders and parents worrying that they or their baby could get COVID-19 at a health care provider’s office. Experts worry that a decrease in vaccinations could put babies and children at risk of getting diseases that could be prevented.
If you’re behind on your baby’s vaccination schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic, talk to your health care provider about catching up. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have asked providers to work with families to get up to date on vaccination schedules for babies and children.
Why are vaccines important?
It’s always better to prevent a disease than to treat it after it happens. That’s why vaccines are so important. When your baby gets on-time vaccinations, they protect him from serious childhood diseases and keep him healthy.
Vaccinations are given on a certain schedule recommended by the CDC. Each dose of each vaccine on the schedule is important. These vaccines help protect your baby from 14 serious and potentially deadly diseases before his second birthday.
Why are in-person visits important?
Office visits are important for keeping your baby’s vaccinations on schedule. But they also have other benefits. Vaccinations are one part of regular medical checkups (called well-baby visits) that your baby gets. During well-baby visits, your baby’s provider checks your baby’s overall health, growth and development. These visits help keep your baby healthy and help make sure her development is on track. If your baby missed vaccinations during the pandemic, she probably also missed these other benefits of office visits.
Even during the current pandemic, the AAP recommends in-person visits whenever possible. This is because in-person visits are necessary for services like physical exams, lab tests, health screenings and vaccinations. The CDC also recommends that healthcare providers schedule in-person visits with any babies or children who have missed well-baby visits or vaccinations during the pandemic. The CDC has recommendations for providers on the best and safest ways to catch up on missed vaccines.
Is it safe to bring your baby for an office visit during the pandemic?
Providers are taking steps to help you and your baby stay safe during office visits. The CDC and AAP say providers can follow guidelines like these during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Schedule well-baby visits and visits for sick babies at different times of the day
- Ask people to stay outside (such as in their cars) instead of in the waiting room until they are called in for their appointment
- Set up separate areas or locations for well-baby visits and sick visits
- Take extra measures to clean and disinfect the office
- Be sure that families know about these safety practices so they feel safe coming to the office
Call your baby’s provider to ask about safety measures and find out if there are certain rules you need to follow when going for an office visit. Talk to your provider about how you can reduce the risk of exposing your newborn to infections like COVID-19 when leaving your home.