Before school year starts, parents urged to catch up on kids' vaccinations amid COVID-19

The latest data shows that non-flu immunization rates are down in all age groups, and doctors are warning that this year it's more crucial than ever because of COVID-19.
Part of going back to school includes being up to date on childhood vaccinations. But the latest data shows that non-flu immunization rates are down in all age groups, most notably among older kids, and doctors are warning that this year it's more crucial than ever because of COVID-19.

The pandemic weighed heavily on makeup artist Frenchy Coscoluella when she was pregnant, especially because it's such a high touch environment.

Now, the Glendale mom faces another challenge: Getting immunizations for her infant and 12-year-old.

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"I couldn't take them both at the same time. For example, I would have to take one or the other child to the doctor," she said.

Despite the inconvenience of safety protocols, Frenchy is managing to keep her kids up to date. But, that's not the case for many other parents.

Dr. Vikram Anand is a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

"As of now, the amount of vaccines has plummeted," he said.

Dr. Anand added that his colleagues are giving 60% less childhood vaccinations in California than this time last year.

"Doctor's offices were shut down for a while. But, then also there is a fear of going to the doctor," Dr. Anand explained.

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Frenchy agreed that many parents may be concerned about a trip to the doctor.

"I can definitely see how they feel scared," she said.

Even more scary, Dr. Anand says, is what could happen if kids don't keep up with their vaccine schedule.

"Serious infections like the ones that can be prevented by diseases will increase the burden on the hospital system, which is already getting stretched to its limit," he said.

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Doctors say no one knows how sick a child could get if COVID-19 mixes with measles, whooping cough or even the flu.

"Co-infections with viruses are fairly common, especially in children," Dr. Anand said.

Just because many kids won't be in the classroom doesn't mean they won't be exposed to a vaccine-preventable disease.

Additionally, medical offices are taking steps to keep patients safe.

"I think the best thing to do is ask your doctor what sort of measures they're taking to protect patients," Dr. Anand said.

When schools re-open, Frenchy said her kids will be ready.

"I still think it's super important to go, even with COVID going on," she added.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom's strict criteria for reopening schools means most SoCal classrooms will not be allowed to open for in-person instruction for now. Medical experts are offering some crucial factors to consider for when schools actually are allowed to physically reopen again.

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