Pediatricians say families are skipping well-child visits during COVID-19

Posted at 6:35 AM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-11 07:35:56-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Pediatricians are seeing a decrease in volume at primary care clinics during the pandemic.

Similar to emergency rooms, visits for routine vaccinations are down, according to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital.

"It's understandable that people are concerned about coming to their doctor's office because that's where sick people go," said Dr. Elizabeth Williams. "At the same time, it is very important that children stay up-to-date on their vaccines so that we don't have a resurgence of another vaccine-preventable disease in the setting of this pandemic."

Dr. Williams is a pediatrician at Vanderbilt Primary Care Clinic.

"I imagine all clinics are doing different things. Our practice is specifically separating our well-child visits from our sick visits. We have two separate spaces on our floor so if you have any signs of illness you are on one side of the clinic, but if you are just there for a well-child visit and you don't have a fever or any signs of COVID-19 you go to the well side," she said.

Dr. Williams said not missing routine vaccinations is critical for children under 2 years old and those entering kindergarten.

"It's very important for not even just the contagious infectious agent, but tetanus which is in the environment and you can be exposed to it all the time," Dr. Williams said.

Well-child visits are also a good time for doctors to chart growth and milestones.

"Less than 3 years old is a very critical developmental period and that is when we're doing a lot of screening for speech and language delay," Dr. Williams said.

Families who see a specialized doctor can consider asking about telehealth.

Dr. Jennifer Domm cares for kids with cancer at TriStar Centennial. She is visiting with some of her patients via telehealth.

"They all have serious medical issues," Dr. Domm said. "But we do have a handful of patients that may not need to come in for a medical infusion or transfusion so those patients we have successfully ramped up for telehealth visits."

If your child is scared of the virus, doctors are ready to discuss it with them.

"We generally bring it up before they do because we go in masked and possibly gowned with all our PPE on. We kind of break the ice... that's kind of the nature of pediatrics to just sort of lessen the anxiety," said Dr. Elizabeth Williams.