As the Covid-19 pandemic tears across the country, pediatricians are facing a unique challenge: determining what to do about well child check-ups. As you probably know, typical well child visits occur at regular intervals throughout the first three years of life and then yearly thereafter. Pediatricians assess growth and development, provide vaccination, perform lead and anemia screenings and offer supportive anticipatory guidance for parents.
We know vaccines save lives. According to the CDC, vaccination for children between the years of 1994 and 2018 will prevent 936,000 future deaths and 419 million illnesses. And yet, a recent study published by the Measles & Rubella Initiative reported that 117 million kids internationally are at risk of missing the measles vaccine due to the current pandemic, even though the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics are still recommending routine well child care for vaccination at the discretion of the providers.
As the experts in disease prevention, we pediatricians are finding ourselves in a bind. We are asking healthy parents and babies to leave the safety of their home to come into a medical office. And there is no clear statistical analysis available yet to weigh the risks of COVID-19 acquisition through an office visit against the risks of illness from a vaccine preventable illness. We also know that children are more mildly affected than their parents by COVID, which complicates the picture even further.
I work in New Rochelle, NY, where the first case of community spread in the U.S. began in early March, and have grappled with this question personally. And while I initially felt fearful of bringing healthy families out of their homes, I have conceded that this virus is going to be with us for longer than we hoped for and we must do our part to ensure the health and safety of our babies during these times.