AUSTIN, Texas - Austin area pediatricians are seeing fewer children for routine vaccinations and they worry that could put the community at risk of another infectious disease outbreak.
“What we're seeing right now with this pandemic is very scary. It shut down our economy,” said Dr. Brent Cardwell, a pediatrician at Cedar Park Pediatric and Family Medicine.
Cardwell said the COVID-19 pandemic has scared many parents into avoiding taking their children to the doctor for routine visits.
“That really raises alarms. We want to make sure that these kids are able to get in, these adolescents are able to get in, and that they feel safe and comfortable coming in for their vaccines and for their checkups,” said Cardwell.
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A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found an almost 22 percent decrease in the number of vaccines administered to children in May 2020 compared to May of last year.
Dr. Cardwell said that’s especially worrisome after learning how important herd immunity is from the impacts of COVID-19.
“We certainly might create another episode after this is all over and we're getting out and about again, and we're taking a big sigh of relief, and then have to worry about a measles outbreak like they had at Disneyland several years ago or something like that,” Cardwell said.
The pediatrician believes canceled doctors appointments is one of the unintended consequences of stay at home orders.
Cedar Park Pediatric and Family Medicine, like other medical providers, has implemented several new safety protocols to make sure patients are not exposed to coronavirus. They have separate hours for patients who are feeling sick, staff wears protective equipment and patients can do online visits or check-in from their cars so they aren’t sitting in a waiting room.
“I'm even going out to people's cars in full gear just to see them so that they feel safer not having to come in. We're really trying to work with the community to provide the best care possible and we're having to think outside the box, as many people are during this pandemic,” said Cardwell.
Doctors said we won’t know all the impacts the COVID-19 shutdown had on preventative illnesses right away.
Cardwell encourages parents to continue taking their children in for routine visits so any health problems are discovered before they become serious.
“It's not only just the vaccines that's very important, but also their mental health and a variety of other things that we do on a preventative basis. If we keep putting that off, once this quarantine and shelter in place is over, I run into a whole other set of medical issues because we put off all that preventative care,” Cardwell said.
Doctors also say the things parents teach their kids at home will help keep them safe from COVID-19 exposure. That includes things like washing their hands frequently and not touching their faces.
FOX 7 Austin is working to keep you up to date with coronavirus, with both local and national developments. Every weekday we're live at 12 p.m. with a special show reporting the latest news, prevention tips and treatment information.
You can also get the latest COVID-19 news from around the country at coronavirusnow.com.