This week marks National Infant Immunization Week in the U.S., but with the current state of the world, many parents are questioning whether they should risk exposure to COVID-19 to keep their kid’s immunizations on track.
Kristina Gustafson, M.D., MSCR, is the clinic director of the MUSC Children’s Health University Pediatrics – Rutledge Tower and stresses the importance of continuing with your baby’s primary vaccine series. This group of routine vaccines are given from birth through 18 months of age and protect children from infections like pertussis, meningitis, pneumonia, measles and chickenpox.
“Because these infections can lead to preventable life-long problems or even death among children under two years old, it’s incredibly important that parents continue to take their babies in for their initial vaccines right now,” Gustafson said.
And Gustafson is certainly not alone. Earlier this month, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that pediatricians still see patients in person for their well check visits, especially for children who are under two years old and need routine vaccines. In order to do so, MUSC Health clinics have changed the way local clinics are run by regionalizing their services.
All pediatric patients are being referred to University Pediatrics – Rutledge Tower or University Pediatrics – Northwoods. Parents will also be asked screening questions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention when entering any MUSC pediatric clinic and throughout their visit.
Our clinics have also identified which patients will need kindergarten, middle school or high school booster vaccines and are contacting those parents to set up in-person visits as part of our Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) outreach.
Telehealth visits also provide an alternative to in-person office visits, and many insurance companies are applying the same coverage or co-pay as they would for a physical visit to a clinic. The South Carolina Department of Health & Human Services recently announced that Medicaid will pay for well visits via telehealth.
Children with chronic medical conditions like ADHD and behavior problems, mental health issues, obesity, diabetes and asthma are good candidates for telehealth visits, according to Gustafson. She says many pediatricians even feel that telehealth visits provide a unique opportunity to see patients in their home environment and interacting with their family. “It gives us the chance to provide even more personalized guidance and counseling,” she said.
By changing protocols and adhering to the strict social distancing and measures listed below, MUSC Health is ensuring the health and safety of both its patients and his health care team members. In addition to those listed above, other hospital-wide policy changes include:
- Restricted visitor policy in the hospital and ambulatory locations.
- Screening all patients and visitors for respiratory symptoms prior to entering our facilities.
- Separating patients with respiratory systems from other patients.
- Where available, patients can register and wait for their appointment in car.
- Patient areas, including waiting rooms, set up to follow social distancing guidelines.
- Surfaces in our facilities are actively disinfected and cleaned between patients and multiple times throughout the day.
- Hand sanitizer is available throughout our facilities.
- Masks are required and readily available for patients, visitors, and care team members.
- Active use of telemedicine appointments.
To schedule an appointment as a new or returning patient with one of our MUSC pediatricians at either the downtown or North Charleston location, call 843-792-7000.