One of the simplest ways to protect the health of our children is ensuring they receive all recommended vaccines. Because of the pandemic over the past few months, many children across the country have fallen behind on their vaccine schedules. For example, the number of Maryland children receiving the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine in March and April declined 71% compared to last year, with 15,950 fewer children receiving the vaccine.
As a community health center that has served thousands of children over our 30+ years, we strongly urge you to keep your kids on their regular vaccination schedules so we can maintain healthy communities and prevent any new disease outbreaks.
Mary’s Center has many processes in place to keep your family safe from COVID-19 exposure during your well-child visit:
- We screen all participants at the door, and anyone exhibiting potential COVID-19 symptoms uses a separate entrance, waiting room, and designated exam rooms.
- In waiting areas for both well and sick patients, we require everyone to maintain social distance and wear a mask. We provide masks for anyone who arrives without one.
- We have increased cleaning and disinfecting of all waiting areas and exam rooms.
Schools in Washington, DC and Maryland are still requiring students to provide updated vaccination records this year, so now is the ideal time to beat the back-to-school rush and make an appointment. To minimize your time in the clinic, most children will have 2-part appointments, the first being virtual and the second being in-person later in the summer. Babies up to 24 months old, as well as children who are 4, 11, or 16 years old will be given an in-person appointment at one of our health centers.
Even during normal times, we know parents sometimes have concerns about vaccinations, and our providers are always here to give you all the information you need to feel comfortable.
Dr. Christian Cornejo, pediatrician and medical director of one of our health centers, and interim vice president of the DC chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, answers some of the most common questions about vaccines:
Q: Why is it important for parents to vaccinate their children?
A: Vaccines are the single most important way parents can protect their children from serious diseases. Only a few decades ago, many childhood diseases, which can now be prevented by vaccines, often resulted in hospitalization, lifelong debilitation or death. Without immunizations, serious outbreaks of many of the diseases we are now protected from can re-emerge.
Q: What are the most important vaccinations to get and when should my child receive them?
A: At Mary’s Center, we follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) scheduling recommendations. These schedules indicate the recommended ages for routine administration of the currently licensed childhood vaccines. This schedule has been approved by many organizations, such as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).
During the first 2 years of life, our patients get immunized every 2 to 3 months. After 2 years of age, children don’t require additional routine vaccines until they are 4 years old, and then, again, when they turn 11. Additionally, we highly recommend the influenza vaccine, and this is done once a year starting at 6 months of age.
Q: Where can my child be vaccinated? Does it cost money?
A: We encourage our patients to receive their vaccines in our clinics. The majority of routine pediatric vaccines are covered by health insurance or by the Vaccine for Children (VFC) program. The VFC program is a federally-funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children who might not otherwise be vaccinated due to inability to pay. Vaccines can also be received at the local health department, and recently, some pharmacies have started offering routine vaccines. We feel it is best for our patients to receive their vaccines in our clinics with their provider because this allows us to keep track of their vaccinations and know what vaccines are still needed.
Q: What happens if my child isn’t vaccinated? What are some of the diseases children can get, and how can those diseases affect children’s development in the future?
A: An unvaccinated child is at higher risk of developing diseases that once maimed or killed thousands of children in the past. One example of the great impact vaccines have had is the elimination of polio in the United States. Polio was once America’s most feared disease, causing death and paralysis across the country. But today, thanks to vaccination, no cases of polio have originated in the United States since the 1970s.
Many of us, including our patients, their families and our staff, have witnessed how debilitating and devastating it is to suffer from polio. I, myself, remember seeing kids and adults using crutches or dragging their non-functional limbs on the streets of Lima, Peru. These images are difficult to forget. It is heart-breaking to know their trauma could have been prevented with a simple vaccine.
Q: I’ve heard that parents aren’t getting their kids vaccinated because of rumors that vaccinations might be linked to autism. How do you feel about those claims?
A: Claims that vaccines are linked to autism or are unsafe when administered according to the recommended schedule have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature. It is dangerous to public health to suggest otherwise. Vaccines are one of the safest, most effective and most important medical innovations of our time. Our providers partner with parents to provide what is best for their child — to be fully immunized.
Q: What other reasons do parents give you for not wanting to get their children vaccinated?
A: Some parents are concerned about the pain vaccines can cause. It is a fact that vaccines may cause some discomfort, redness, or tenderness at the site of injection. This temporary discomfort is minimal compared to the pain and trauma of the diseases these vaccines prevent.
Q: Is there anything else parents should know about vaccines?
A: It is important to remember that some types of international travel, especially to developing countries and rural areas, carry a higher risk of being exposed to various diseases, such as typhoid and yellow fever. There are vaccines that can help protect travelers to such places against these serious diseases. For this reason, we encourage our patients to let us know when and to where they are planning to travel, so we can guide them on which vaccines are recommended and where they might receive them. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Contact us today to learn more and make an appointment.