Pediatric physicians want to ease the minds of parents who may be afraid to take their infant to the doctor for fear of being exposed to the novel coronavirus.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has noted a drop in well-child visits since the onset of the pandemic. These visits are vital, especially for infants, to ensure that children receive the immunizations they need at the proper age, said Dr. Howard Smart, Chairman of Pediatrics at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group.
"We need to get those vaccines done on time and we are trying to make it as absolutely as safe as possible," Smart said. "We want everybody to know its OK to come to the doctor for your checkups."
Vaccines are given to infants for preventable diseases like bacterial meningitis, whooping cough and measles. If vaccines are delayed, it could lead to outbreaks of those diseases within a community already at risk of straining the health care system.
Smart said some parents have expressed concern about being exposed to the novel coronavirus during a doctor's visit, but he wants to assure patients that health care facilities are taking precautions to prevent exposures.
"We give the immunizations at a certain age for a reason and it really can’t be delayed,” Smart said.
At Sharp, each person is screened before they enter the building with a questionnaire that can determine if anyone has symptoms of COVID-19. Every patient over 2 must also wear a face covering.
In the pediatric department, Sharp ensures that well-baby appointments are conducted only in the morning, while all other children are scheduled in the afternoon.
Starting next week, the hospital will also be conducting temperatures screenings on every person who enters the building.
"I felt reassured when I came in and they're taking a lot of precautions when you come in and masking everyone and asking the right questions and providing the hand sanitizer," said Rachael Jones, who was at Sharp for a well-baby appointment for her son, Quinn.
If a child is infected with COVID-19, the likelihood of that developing into a severe case of the disease is rare, Smart said. Most children recover well from the disease.
Smart said if parents are doing their part to maintain social distance, wear a mask and wash their hands, "then you’re doing everything we are asking you to do."
Sharp's pediatrics division also provides virtual visits and can answer questions over the phone if a parent needs medical advice for their child. Smart said their first priority is to care for their patients.
"If you're sick, we want to hear from you," he said. There are doctors here wanting to take care of you. Call us if you have an issue, a sick child. Call us, we can do a phone or video visit within minutes."