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Report: Annual Doctor Visit Should be High on 'Back-to-School' Checklist


Friday, August 6, 2021   

TUCSON, Ariz. -- It is getting to be "back-to-school" time in Arizona, and pediatricians say a visit to the doctor is as important for kids as getting a three-ring binder or new shoes before they return to the classroom.

Since so many children have been home-schooled for the past year, a new report showed they may have fallen behind on their annual wellness checkup and their childhood vaccinations.

The report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute indicated there was a 27% drop in kids' doctor visits during the past year.

Dr. Sean Elliott, professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of Arizona School of Medicine, said the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented many Arizona kids from keeping their childhood vaccines current.

"Children beginning at age two months, and certainly kids who are school age, should have been fully vaccinated," Elliott explained. "But because of the global pandemic, they may not have been able to see a doctor, not able to complete their vaccine series."

Some parents do not immunize their children for religious reasons or concerns about the potential health risks of some vaccines, although those are reported to be extremely rare.

Children in Arizona are not required to get the COVID-19 vaccination to enter school.

Elliot noted the vaccines required for children to enter most Arizona public schools are designed to prevent the spread of several serious diseases.

"Current ones that we're very concerned about are pertussis, i.e. whooping cough; measles (it is not gone, it is absolutely here); mumps; chicken pox; pneumococcal disease, which can cause anything from a simple ear infection all the way to meningitis," Elliot outlined.

Dr. Lee Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said it is important for public-health officials to ensure that every child in the community has equal access to a clean bill of health to return to school.

"Children from households that are low-income and children of color are more likely to have missed vaccines, and more likely to have missed their well visits," Beers pointed out. "It's so important that we remove any barriers we can to make sure that all kids can get in to see their pediatrician as soon as possible."

The report estimated 11 million children have missed routine vaccinations during the pandemic. It warned such a decline in vaccination rates could result in fewer communities reaching herd immunity for preventable diseases.

Disclosure: Georgetown University Center for Children and Families contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, and Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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