Drive-up vaccination clinics aim to keep kids immunized

Published: May. 13, 2020 at 3:10 PM EDT
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Routine vaccinations for children have decreased significantly during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, the CDC is warning it could lead to an increase in vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles as social distancing is relaxed. Here's how doctors are working to ease parents' fears.

Kimberlee Dahl's 8-month-old son, Egon, is due for vaccinations. The pediatrician pushed back his March appointment because of the pandemic, but now mom is nervous about rescheduling.

"It's just not top priority for us until the numbers start going down," Dahl said. "Like, yes, I worry, but at the same time I also worry about the virus, too."

She's not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds childhood vaccinations have plunged since the coronavirus began spreading in the U.S.

To ease parents' fears, Children's Hospital Los Angeles and AltaMed started a drive-up vaccination clinic to ensure children stay on schedule with their well-visits and vaccinations. In tents outside the hospital, children from infants to adolescents are given their vaccines after a brief physical.

"We're taking all the appropriate measures with our masks, and our face shields, and our gloves, and our gowns, but we understand that fear. And so having it in an outdoor space I think was also a nice aspect to it," said Liza Macintosh, the site lead medical director.

Sandra Carillo brought her 18-month-old daughter, Julianna, to the clinic so she doesn't fall behind on her shots.

"I feel more comfortable out here than in there and she's up to date with her vaccines," Carillo said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics believes a decrease in immunizations could set the stage for a resurgence of preventable diseases like measles, meningitis and whooping cough.

"We want to make sure that we are not now changing the tide of those other illnesses that we've had such amazing success in preventing because of vaccines," said Dr. Mona Patel, the vice president of ambulatory operations at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

The AAP is encouraging all parents to maintain the recommended schedule to keep their children and the community safe.

According to the AAP, pediatricians are continuing to make sure visits are safe by setting different hours or locations for well and sick children in their offices, conducting visits by telehealth, and using rigorous sanitation and cleaning practices.