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Experts: Wellness Visits More Urgent as Kids Head Back to School


Tuesday, August 3, 2021   

Clarification: Updated 2pm MST, 8/3/2021, to clarify Dr. Saurer's remarks.

PRESTONSBURG, Ky. -- A new report by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, urged parents to get their children caught up on missed doctor visits and vaccinations, to protect themselves and their communities before they return to school.

Emily Beauregard, executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health, said wellness visits for kids under age five dropped 75% last March nationwide, mirroring the trend seen in the Commonwealth.

She noted kids are less protected than ever, increasing the odds of measles or hepatitis outbreaks during the school year.

"And I think any parent who has a child in daycare right now has seen the spread of viruses come back in force since mask mandates have ended," Beauregard asserted. "So, if we don't get immunization rates back up to herd immunity levels again, we're going to be facing the possibility of multiple outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses."

According to the report, Black children are least likely to receive all recommended vaccines, while Asian children are the most likely. Some parents don't immunize children for religious reasons. Others worry about potential health risks of some vaccines, although those are reported to be extremely rare.

In addition to their vaccination status, Dr. Alexander Saurer, pediatrician at Frontier Medical Associates in eastern Kentucky, said kids who miss wellness visits are less likely to receive needed therapies and treatments.

"The earlier we get these kids enrolled in early interventions, the better their outcomes are as they get older," Saurer emphasized.

Saurer also pointed to a worsening obesity epidemic among children in the state, and said wellness visits can ensure kids stay healthy.

"We're seeing growth charts just jumping up and seeing a lot of kids in the obese category currently," Saurer reported. "So, we're really working on that right now, getting kids back on track to being physically active."

For information on recommended childhood immunizations in the Commonwealth, parents can visit the state's Cabinet for Health and Family Services website.

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