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Vaccinations, check-ups vital for children amid pandemic

Vaccinations, check-ups vital for children amid pandemic

Health
Four kids together

If you have children, you might be reluctant to take them to a physician’s office during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s essential for kids to continue benefiting from well-child visits, vaccinations and other medical care they need.
In recent months, the number of children receiving routine vaccinations for preventable illnesses such as measles and whooping cough has dropped significantly.
A report released in May by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that health care providers administered 400,000 fewer non-influenza vaccines between March 13 and April 13 than they did during the same period in 2019.
In South Carolina, the number of childhood vaccine doses administered was down 35 percent in April and 21 percent in March compared to 2019, according to South Carolina DHEC.
That decline is cause for serious concern, says Dr. Jill Aiken, a pediatrician with Tidelands Health Pediatrics on Holmestown Road in Myrtle Beach, because timely vaccinations and well-child visits are a cornerstone of pediatric health.

Importance of vaccines

Vaccinations are critically important because they help protect children from dangerous illnesses such as measles and whooping cough and can help physicians diagnose children if they become ill.
“For example, pertussis, or whooping cough, can look a lot like COVID-19,” she says. “It’s characterized by a deep, barky cough and high fever.”

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But if a child is up to date on pertussis vaccinations, health care providers know it’s unlikely to be the cause of the child’s symptoms.
For a similar reason, health care providers and public health officials are stressing the importance to both adults and children of receiving the flu vaccine this year, Dr. Aiken says. Because the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 overlap, receiving the flu vaccine can help you and your care team determine the cause of your illness and, if you do get the flu, reduce the severity of symptoms.

Well-child-visits

Even if your child isn’t due for a vaccination, it’s important for parents to bring children for annual well-child visits, Dr. Aiken says. During those visits, the physician will screen your child for physical, developmental and behavioral health concerns that may otherwise go undetected until they become worse.
Dr. Aiken says she understands that some people might be concerned about the safety of receiving medical care during the pandemic.
After all, hospitals and medical offices are places where people seek care when they’re injured or ill.

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But that’s precisely why they are among the safest places you can go.
Taking care of people when they’re ill – while keeping others around them healthy – is what health professionals do. At Tidelands Health, team members undergo extensive training and follow industry-leading health and safety protocols that detail everything from the types of high-powered disinfectants used to the way lobbies are designed.
In addition, Tidelands Health has implemented a series of extra precautions at all of the health system’s 60-plus care locations as part of the organization’s ”Safe in our Care” initiative.
The initiative includes Safe Care Navigators, who screen patients for symptoms of COVID-19, provide hand sanitizer for hand hygiene and answer safety-related questions, enhanced check-in and check-out procedures, designated social distancing zones and enhancements to the organization’s already-stringent cleaning protocols in lobbies and exam rooms. In addition, all patients, visitors and team members are required to wear a face covering or mask in all Tidelands Health care locations.
“The safety of our patients is something we take extremely seriously,” Dr. Aiken says.

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