Coronavirus pandemic: Some parents skip their children's vaccine appointments over COVID fears

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Amid the coronavirus pandemic, pediatricians are trying to future prevent outbreaks of a different kind.

At Children's Hospital Los Angeles, doctors noticed a dramatic drop in patient visits. While telemedicine is helpful, it's no substitute for vaccines.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis says fear of the coronavirus is preventing many parents from having their children immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases.

"Vaccine rates have declined significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic," Solis said. "I am deeply concerned that COVID-19 will lead to another health crisis if routine vaccines are delayed."

Before the pandemic, the AltaMed-CHLA Clinic handled about 350 pediatric patients a day.

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The clinic's medical director, Dr. Liza Mackintosh said. "After the safer-at-home orders came from the governor, we saw a very, very sharp decline -- about a 70 to 80 percent decline in our patient volumes."

Many of those missed visits were for vaccines. So Mackintosh and her colleagues decided to head outdoors and open a drive-up vaccination clinic.

"As pediatricians, that's one of the most important things that we do," she said. "We didn't want to see an outbreak of a vaccine preventable illness because children were delaying vaccinations."

Five-month-old Zadkiel Zavala has four other brothers, making it tough for his mother to leave the house.

"It's a little challenging," Priscilla said. The drive-up clinic makes the task more convenient.

"It's very important," she said. "Especially in this situation going on right now."

This vaccination clinic is an important point of contact. There doctors can ask how the family is doing, ask about food insecurity and set up future appointments.

Mackintosh said, "It gives us that nice face-to-face interaction and we were able to connect with families."

Mackintosh said if children fall behind, they won't get the full benefit of the vaccines. She urges families to call their pediatrician and make an appointment.

"We strongly believe that a full vaccination schedule is the healthiest," she said. "That's the best thing we can do to make child healthy."

Priscilla said, "It's very important especially now with this epidemic. And being scared is not the way to go."
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