Childhood Vaccinations 'Of Utmost Importance' In COVID-19 Pandemic

aniela Chavarriaga holds her daughter, Emma Chavarriaga, as pediatrician Jose Rosa-Olivares, M.D. administers a measles vaccination during a visit to the Miami Children's Hospital on June 02, 2014 in Miami, Florida.
Photo credit Joe Raedle / Getty Images

While many public health officials and doctors have encouraged people to temporarily postpone regular trips to the doctor during the coronavirus pandemic, there is one notable exception: childhood vaccinations. 

"One of the things we know has happened as a result of the COVID pandemic is that there have been serious declines in the rate of vaccinations among children," said Dr. Hayden Schwenk, Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stanford's Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Dr. Schwenk was a guest Tuesday on KCBS Radio’s "Ask An Expert."

A study in May from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found significant declines in regular childhood vaccinations across all ages, except for doses of hepatitis B administered in the hospital at birth.

"I think this is of the utmost importance as we approach the influenza season here in the next several months, which will only complicate the COVID pandemic," said Dr. Schwenk.

When the pandemic first began, many doctor’s offices closed for all but urgent health issues in order to reduce the spread of the virus, protect the supply of PPE and relieve stress on the healthcare system. But months later, many clinics and medical facilities have reopened for regular visits. 

Dr. Schwenk told KCBS Radio's Stan Bunger the staff at your pediatrician’s office is well-trained in infection control and patients should feel assured that their doctor has many safeguards in place to protect patients. 

"Whenever possible, stay on schedule with vaccinations," he said. 

While coronavirus cases are still rising in many parts of the U.S., health officials fear that if vaccination rates for other infectious diseases such the measles drop below levels needed for herd immunity, communities could face outbreaks of more than one disease at a time.