Vaccinations drop as Vermont pediatricians see drop in appointments

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Pediatric practices are businesses, too, and they're not immune to the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Physician's Computer Company, based in Winooski, studies trends in medical offices nationwide. Their data says the COVID-19 pandemic has caused dramatic effects on pediatric businesses. In-person visits are down approximately 50% in Vermont.

"The impact is twofold. One hand we're looking at the impact on all these independent pediatric practices. These are independent, small businesses throughout the country. They rely on their patients they rely on these visits to generate income," said Alex Meyer of the Physician's Computer Company.

From finances to maintaining children's health.

"They get paid when children come in for a visit. If children aren't coming in for a visit, they're not getting paid," Meyer said. "The rates of vaccinations and what sorts of vaccinations are being given and were seeing because again people are not coming in for those visits, vaccination rates are dropping."

Since February, vaccinations in Vermont for the measles have dropped 14%, for polio 30% and for HPV 80% according to PCC data.

Local practice Lakeside Pediatrics is working around these roadblocks with telemedicine. Although office visits are down 60%, they say that's partially by design.

"For the most part, we feel confident that the telemedicine that we're doing is effective and it's a question of being astute with the triaging of the cases to make sure that everyone is safe," said Dr. Greg Connolly of Lakeside Pediatrics.

Connolly says 75% of their patients are being seen through telemedicine.

Healthy infants under 12 months and children with noncontagious ailments are still seen in person.

When all of this comes to an end, researchers expect a wave of patients making their way back to the doctor's office. With that, will come a strain on vaccine inventories and appointment availability.

While doctors at Lakeside Pediatrics are trying to mitigate that through telemedicine visits now, they say they are prepared for a busy summer.