Covid-19’s Effects on Primary Care: A Focus on Childhood Vaccinations

While monitoring the pandemic’s progression, it is important to simultaneously consider the effects it has had on outpatient primary care centers.  Communicating via telehealth and shifting the focus from preventative health care to screening for Covid-19 are amongst many of the changes that this specialty has had to be challenged with.  With regards to the latter change, the number of well child examinations and vaccinations for newborns to 24 months have noticeably declined in the past year and more so amongst the current pandemic.  Now this seems obvious and reasonable as parents want to limit exposure to high risk places, such as the doctor’s office.  However, some clinicians have raised a counter-argument to the current trend.  Many raise the concern of how this could actually be detrimental to the quality of health for our future generations- specifically emphasizing the effects on infectious disease control and immunity.  

On May 8, the CDC released a weekly report documenting current health standards and statistics titled “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report”.  Childhood vaccinations have shown “…substantial decreases in the number of vaccines ordered and administered to children…”.  The CDC has recognized these numbers and has come to the conclusion that Covid-19’s disruption to routine primary health care practices, such as administering routine vaccinations to children, will lead to an increase in the number of “vaccine-preventable” diseases in communities, and can potentially contribute to this pandemic by rendering an already vulnerable population to be even more vulnerable.      

So what does this all mean? The CDC has advocated and stressed the importance to continue to stay on track with routine vaccination schedules even amongst the given circumstances.  The AAFP has put into place guidelines for physicians and health care workers to encourage parents to continue to bring their children in for routine vaccinations.  The guidelines provide physicians ways to ensure a safe and controlled environment to reduce many potential risks for spread of infection.  More information on these guidelines can be accessed on the AFP and CDC websites.  

Resources: 

AAFP. “MMWR: COVID-19 Has Provoked Drop in Childhood Immunizations.” AAFP Home, American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), 8 May 2020, www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/20200508covidvax.html.

CDC. “Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Routine Pediatric Vaccine Ordering and Administration – United States, 2020.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8 May 2020, www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6919e2.htm?s_cid=mm6919e2_w.

Lewis, Corinne. “Primary Care and the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Commonwealth Fund, 22 Apr. 2020, www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2020/primary-care-and-covid-19-pandemic

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