Pediatrician urges parents to keep current with vaccines during pandemic

Posted at 7:41 AM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 08:41:16-04

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed pediatric care.

Dr. Margaret Hennessy, Ascension All Saints Hospital Racine's Department of Pediatrics Chairperson, said she is right now only seeing children for routine wellness visits if they're two-years old or younger.

She said those appointments, which often contain important vaccines, are too crucial to reschedule around COVID-19.

Check-ups for older kids, above two-years old, have all been postponed. Hennessy said those visits are tough to conduct virtually - with telemedicine - because pediatricians need accurate data for a child's height, weight, blood pressure, etc.

But she and other pediatricians at Ascension have been using telemedicine to perform services like medication rechecks.

"If we did nothing, those children would be receiving no care at all," Hennessy said. "So we started doing our medication rechecks virtually."

"With chronic medicine use, simple rashes, or simple sick visits, I can do those virtually," she added.

She stressed Ascension is doing its best to ensure parents and children coming in for appointments remain safe from coronavirus.

For instance, children with respiratory issues are being brought to a totally separate building.

In children who need vaccines, Hennessy said care providers can take care of those in mobile trailers set up outside of the facility in Racine - so children and their parent/guardian don't need to enter the hospital.

"I think this is a very scary time for a lot of folks, and I understand the fear," Hennessy said.

She said that fear has her concerned some parents will postpone getting their children the recommended vaccines.

"I do worry that when the school year starts up again, we may have some outbreaks in vaccine-preventable diseases," Hennessy said. "The biggest one we worry about is measles, because it's so contagious and vaccine coverage is so very important. But I also worry about pertussis, or whooping cough, being an issue."

She hopes the availability of the vaccine trailers will prevent parents from putting off their children's vaccines until late in the summer - right before school starts - due to fears about COVID-19.

"We're going to have probably extended hours, weekend hours, to accommodate those people that have to be seen," if everyone waits until August to get vaccinated, Hennessy said.

As businesses reopen and Southeast Wisconsin begins its rebound, Hennessy said all children 2-years old and above should be wearing masks to help stop the spread of the virus.

"I don't want people to be afraid to be out and about, but that's how diseases spread," Hennessy said.

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