By Steven Reinberg
The survey of more than 700 parents by Orlando Health found that although 84% believe vaccines are necessary to protect their children from a host of diseases, two-thirds fear taking their kids to their doctor because of COVID-19.
Orlando resident Cynthia Velasco is one parent preparing her 5-year-old son, AJ, to attend kindergarten this year. "He's so excited to go to what he calls 'big boy school,'" she said in an Orlando Health news release. "And while I'm confident that the schools are doing all they can to keep students safe, it makes me nervous that his immune system has been largely untested as we were socially distant for the past several months."
So, Velasco had AJ immunized so his vaccine records were up to date before school begins.
"Making sure that he is protected from these diseases is really important to me and because I know our pediatrician's office is taking steps to keep their office safe, staying up to date on his vaccinations far outweighs the risk of getting sick at that appointment," she added.
But if fewer children get their childhood vaccinations because their parents are too nervous to bring them to the doctor, experts worry that it could lead to a resurgence of dangerous and preventable childhood diseases.
"It is imperative that parents keep their routine wellness visits with their child's pediatrician," said Dr. Alix Casler, chair of the department of pediatrics for Orlando Health Physician Associates.
"While we are doing as many visits as possible virtually, coming in for vaccinations is important not only for protecting your child but also to preserve herd immunity against these terrible diseases," Casler added in an Orlando Health news release.
In her practice, Casler said she keeps patients as safe as possible by seeing one family at a time, having patients wait in their cars rather than a waiting room, and screening for COVID-19.
"All it will take is a case of measles entering our community and we will see loss of life that is completely and totally unnecessary," Casler said. "It can be hard for people to grasp just how important universal vaccinations are because they've never seen how devastating these diseases can be. Measles and whooping cough outbreaks are a thing of the past, thanks to vaccines, and we'd like to keep it that way."
Skepticism about vaccines was seen in 38% of those who responded to the survey. Those parents don't believe their child needs all the recommended vaccines, the survey found.
"The only reason that we have herd immunity against so many diseases is because upwards of 90% to 95% of children are vaccinated," Casler said. "Once we drop below that level, no one will be presumed safe."
It's also important for the whole family to get flu shots as soon as possible, Casler added. "The fact is that we have a safe and effective method to reduce the impact of influenza through a vaccine. We're hoping that people will be lining up to get their flu shots so we can at least take something off of the table in terms of very serious illness as the nation continues to battle this pandemic."