FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Pediatricians say a significant, and unintended, consequence of Virginia's stay-at-home order is parents postponing child check-ups en masse – contributing to a startling decline in youth vaccinations.
According to data released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), adolescent vaccination rates in Virginia declined by 76% over the past six weeks.
The rate for infant vaccinations also fell by 30% according to data provided by 100 pediatric practices across the Commonwealth.
“Every day we have families who are calling, canceling appointments, worried that it's not safe to come out,” said Dr. Sandy Chung, president of the AAP’s Virginia chapter. “People are sheltering in place, but as a side effect, they don’t feel it’s safe to go to the doctor’s office to get these important vaccinations."
In this context, an unconventional solution emerged. Chung’s practice in Fairfax rented an RV, one repurposed with a doctor’s office inside.
Physicians now drive the RV to patients’ homes, administering vaccines without families having to leave their driveways.
“We want to make parents feel that there are safe ways to keep their kids protected from H. influenzae, meningitis, measles and all of these diseases that can be extremely dangerous for infants, if not fatal,” Chung said.
“We can’t have infants who have missed their vaccinations, which are due every two or three months, otherwise we’ll start to see illnesses show up again – which we don’t want to see now," Chung said.
Chung also reported that parents of teenagers have canceled appointments, thinking vaccinations for adolescents can wait for one or two more months.
“But my message is really that while the COVID-19 numbers may go down, it’s not going away,” she added. “So I would prefer that families think of keeping their children safe now, from diseases that we can protect them against in this moment.”