Last month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that all elective and nonessential medical, surgical, and dental procedures should be delayed during the outbreak of COVID-19. Providers have been encouraged to provide telehealth services through video and audio where possible, allowing them to maintain social distancing and limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. However, certain medical procedures, particularly vaccinations, cannot be administered through telehealth, and are not clearly essential or non-essential, especially for children.
In response, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy for Family Physicians have recommended that pediatricians prioritize well visits for newborns, and for other young children (through 24 months of age) who require immunizations. Middle-aged and adolescent children’s immunization visits can be rescheduled.
In general, the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages child healthcare providers to weigh the benefits of each possible visit with the possible risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus for the patient, parents, and provider. These decisions should include considerations of the unique condition of the spread in their community, and can evolve as those circumstances change. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also encourage providers to consider the characteristics of their patient population and how certain groups may be more at risk of exposure for a visit than others. For example, parents and children who use public transportation to travel to their provider’s office may be at a higher risk of exposure than those who use a family car to do so.
Ultimately, the decision to move forward with scheduled visits, for immunization and other concerns, should be made by parents and their child’s healthcare provider. Parents should contact their child’s healthcare provider about any upcoming visits, continue to practice spread-prevention with their children, and visit the CDC’S guide for talking with children about Coronavirus Disease 2019.