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Wellness Visits in the Time of COVID-19

If you are a parent of an infant or young child, the current COVID-19 pandemic may have you questioning if taking your child to their pediatrician or healthcare provider for their wellness check or scheduled vaccine appointment is safe.

Despite these feelings of uncertainty, which are completely valid, it is recommended to follow through with these appointments for several reasons. The first being that your healthcare provider’s office is adding additional steps to their already rigorous cleaning and disinfecting routines to keep everyone safe and healthy. Second, continuing to follow the recommended child and adolescent immunization schedule now will help prevent future outbreaks – COVID-19 is a stark reminder of the challenges of fighting deadly diseases without vaccines.  Third, vaccines can help prevent co-infections and complications – getting a preventable disease and COVID-19 together could have tragic consequences. Lastly, you’re helping save lives by reducing the burden on our hospitals - having to treat COVID-19 patients as well as a child with a vaccine-preventable disease adds unnecessary pressure to our already stressed healthcare system.

When visiting your healthcare provider, it is recommended to call their office in advance to ask about any procedures you should follow when coming in. This may include, but is not limited to, the use of a mask or face covering, or the practicing of a 6-foot social distancing procedure. Some of our staff, community partners, and volunteers have already made the trip into their healthcare provider’s office for their wellness visits and scheduled vaccine appointments. Their stories, tips, and recommendations are below.

I took my son in for his 1-year-old check up at the early start of the stay-home mandate in mid-March. As his appointment grew near, one of the main things on my mind was “Is my child still able to see their doctor and get their 12-month shots?” The pediatrician’s office had sent their normal reminder text about the appointment, date and time, and to let them know if insurance had changed.

It seemed as if everything was operating as normal, but I was still uneasy about the thought of bringing my child to the office with (what I was assuming would be) a bunch of other kids running around. I was pleasantly surprised to see an empty office- the only people there were the doctors and staff, and they were all wearing masks and gloves. They also had a sign at the front entrance asking patients who were feeling sick to wait in their car and call the front office to let them know they arrived.

At check in, they reassured me that they were still continuing wellness checks and taking the extra precautions to clean and sanitize all areas of their office, and that my child will be seen shortly. Bonus, they called us in before I could even sit down in the waiting room (usually I would wait for 20-30 minutes)!

The thought of not getting my child’s immunizations never crossed my mind. I just wondered how we would be able to leave the house and go to the to the doctor’s office safely. My mind was quickly put at ease to see the extra precautions my child’s pediatrician took to ensure the safety of their patients and staff. Now, more than ever, is an important time to keep your children up to date with their vaccinations. We are battling one disease; let’s not add one more to the mix due to a lack of vaccinating. In a time of uncertainty, it’s scary to think about possibly exposing my child to COVID-19, but at least I know my child is safely protected from other vaccine preventable diseases.

Our baby was recently scheduled for their 9-month old wellness check. They are our third child and we’re well versed in the routine of taking our kids to our trusted pediatrician for their preventative care, but even for us, visiting the doctor during a pandemic was a little concerning.

Fortunately, our pediatrician took every precaution to keep our family safe; during our appointment reminder call, the doctor’s office staff let us know that all routine wellness checks and immunization appointments were purposely scheduled only in the mornings, preventing any chance of contact with children who were sick and were seen exclusively in the afternoons.

Also, I was instructed to call the office upon my arrival and that office staff would come directly to my car to check us in, which meant no time spent in the waiting room. Additionally, I was notified that only one parent and the child who was being seen would be allowed inside the office, further limiting the number of people who could come into the facility. Following these instructions was simple and effective. It made my children and I feel protected during our visit. 

Crystal is a volunteer with Immunize Nevada. Her children have scheduled wellness visits in the late summer. Below are the recommendations she has and reasons why she is following them.

Taking your child out of the house during the pandemic is scary. However, we need to think about the future beyond social distancing. Vaccination schedules are set at times when the immunization provides optimal benefit for your child’s immune system. Immunizations are important for your child’s lifelong health. If you are concerned about taking your child for a doctor's visit, speak with your pediatrician’s office and follow their recommendations, they are there to help.

I had my second baby on February 18, 2020. Life was seemingly normal when we welcomed our second baby into the world. During the first month of life things took a turn for the worse as the country began to brace itself for the impact of the coronavirus. As the second month of life drew to a close and the 2 month doctor appointment neared, my husband and I were concerned about taking our child out of our home and into potential danger. How could we balance potential exposure to COVID-19 and potentially missing the 2 month vaccines?

The pediatric office stayed in constant communication with us as they grappled with how to handle their new normal. Their constant email communication put us at ease as they stopped seeing sick children at their location and were taking all measures possible to ensure staff and patients were not sick when they came into the office. We ultimately decided to keep our appointment.

The day before our appointment, I received a check-in call where we went all of the normal procedures typically done upon arrival. They asked me to wear a mask, if anyone in the house had been sick, and informed me only one parent could accompany our child to the appointment. When we arrived at the doctor’s office, I called the office from my car to inform them we had arrived. They called me back when a room was ready. I walked from my car into the waiting room, had my temperature taken by a masked staff member, and was immediately escorted to a freshly cleaned exam room. At the end of our visit, we made our next appointment and were checked out in the exam room, avoiding further contact. We then exited out a side door, avoiding any incoming patients. We had contact with three people during our visit; they were all wearing masks, washed their hands, and were extremely professional and thoughtful with their approach to caring for their patients. My child received the 2 month-old vaccines, as recommended, and I left feeling comfortable and confident that we had made the right decision.

Back in November 2019, when we confirmed we would be expecting our first baby July 2020, COVID was an unknown word and I knew (relatively) what to expect throughout pregnancy. Since then, my experience being pregnant during the pandemic response has been continuous adjustment to new ways of doing things, restrictions, and unknowingness. One constant throughout has been the desire to give our baby the best chance at health, including determining exactly how to get my TDaP vaccine administered at week 30. Fortunately, my primary care office made it so easy! I called one week before (week 29) and requested a vaccine only appointment. The office was able to schedule a nurse visit for the following week. The day of the appointment, I drove to the office and called from my car to check in. When a room was available (only a minute after my check-in), the nurse called to ensure I had a mask, no fever, nor been around anyone with a fever in the past few weeks. I then walked from my car directly to the room, no wait time, where I immediately received my TDaP vaccine. I then walked directly back to my car. The whole appointment, from drive up to drive away, took less than 10 minutes. I am relieved to know that in all this uncertainty, our baby is still able to receive the care they need to have the best chance at a healthy start.

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
If your healthcare provider is offering virtual visits for non Covid related health issues, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has great recources to answer any questions regarding the process of a virtual visit. Find their tips and suggestions. .

Do you have a child who may need shots for next school year? Call your provider today and ask about getting them up-to-date, or find a clinic on our where to go page. There’s no long waits, and you’ll have one less thing to worry about as we continue to flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19. Staying home saves lives, as does continuing to vaccinate on time, every time.