Why You Should Vaccinate Your Child, Even During a Pandemic

**By David J. Schneider, MD, FAAP**

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently reported a plunge in vaccination rates for children, with numbers suggesting childhood vaccination rates essentially halting from March to April 2020 during the height of coronavirus concerns.

While many families continue to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19 until there is a proven, safe and effective vaccine, parents shouldn’t delay seeking health care for their children, particularly routine immunizations.

Current unvaccinated children for vaccine-preventable diseases do not have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, but they do have a higher risk of contracting other preventable diseases, like meningitis, whooping cough and measles that can potentially lead to worse outcomes. Measles is still spreading globally, with two outbreaks in Washington state last year. Measles is more infectious than the novel coronavirus and young children, pregnant women and immunocompromised children are at an increased risk for complications and have a higher fatality rate.

As a pediatrician who supports children’s overall health, my advice to parents is to not delay health care for your child if you are worried about COVID-19. Aside from vaccine-preventable diseases, delays in care for your child can slow the detection of congenital or developmental issues, diagnosis of new problems or treatments for chronic illnesses.

At Virginia Mason, we are doing new things to help put parents’ worries at ease. We are separating well and sick children into different clinics at physically distant locations so that parents and kids who come in for routine care will have decreased likelihood of being exposed to kids who are unwell. We are doing extra sanitizing of each exam room between patients, using personal protective equipment (PPE) for all visits with full PPE for sick visits, masking all patients at the entrance, and making it possible to maintain a six-foot physical distance from other people within the clinic.

This outbreak has reminded us how important vaccines are, as they help prevent the quick spread of infectious diseases and the horrible consequences that come with an outbreak.   –David Schneider, MD

Patients who are scheduled in the “sick clinic” are asked to wait in their car and they are called when we are ready for them to come in. They are led directly to a clean exam room to avoid possible exposures in waiting rooms and hallways. For visits that do not require in-person care, we offer video visits and have seen a significant increase in this service.

Everyone carries some level of risk for contracting COVID-19. Fortunately for children, most cases of COVID-19 appear to be mild, but there are some children who develop more severe symptoms and complications. It’s important to continue good hand washing, physical distancing and maintaining hygiene practices to help avoid infection.

This outbreak has reminded us how important vaccines are, as they help prevent the quick spread of infectious diseases and the horrible consequences that come with an outbreak. When a COVID-19 vaccine is available, it will be important for everyone to stay up to date with the vaccination to achieve herd immunity and avoid a devastating outbreak like we are having now.


Dr David Schneider_2019David Schneider, MD, FAAP is board-certified in general pediatrics. He practices at Virginia Mason Bellevue Medical Center. Dr. Schneider specializes in pediatric and adolescent medicine, with special interests ranging from well child visits and sports-related injuries to LGBTQ health and mental health concerns around ADHD, depression and anxiety.

Seven Steps to Stop the Flu

At Virginia Mason, we’re big on flu prevention. In 2005, we were the first medical center to require staff members to get a yearly flu shot as a condition of employment, and now nearly all staff members are immunized each year. (For extra credit, read our health care industry blog post “Mandatory Flu Shots: A Defining Moment” to learn more about Virginia Mason’s decision to make flu shots mandatory for staff.)

My desk yeti proudly wears his “No Flu” sticker. And yes, I clean my phone regularly.

Next week, we kick off our flu prevention campaign, and here are the steps you can take to join us in stopping the flu:

  1. Get vaccinated. Virginia Mason is offering influenza immunizations at many convenient locations throughout the Puget Sound beginning Monday, Sept. 17.
  2. Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  4. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in a covered trash can after you use it and then clean your hands.
  5. Avoid close contact with people who are, or may be, sick.
  6.  Keep frequently touched common surfaces clean, such as telephones, computer keyboards and doorknobs.
  7.  Be healthy to stay healthy by getting enough rest, eating well and exercising. Control your stress levels. Prolonged stress can affect your immune system. To help manage your stress, find a balance between work, exercise and personal time.

If you do get sick despite your best prevention efforts, stay home. Flu symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, tiredness, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. With that list of icky ills, why would you want to leave home, so give yourself a break and rest.