The Louisiana Department of Health and the Louisiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (LA AAP) are offering parents support and guidance during the uncertain and unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic to keep their children healthy through routine vaccinations and wellness visits.

State data as well as data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show a sharp drop in vaccine orders from January through April. This drop in routine vaccinations and wellness visits is not unexpected due to the threat of COVID-19 and necessary mitigation measures to control the spread. However, it is important to keep routine checks and vaccinations up to date as vaccinations protect from many other preventable diseases and decrease the risk for disease outbreaks.

“As we work to reopen our economies, maintaining routine immunization during the pandemic is critical especially for children 24 months or younger, pregnant women, people of all ages with chronic health conditions and seniors,” said Dr. Frank Welch, medical director for the LDH’s immunization program. “Many major health professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the CDC and World Health Organization have issued guidelines to safely remain up to date on immunizations.”

The Department and LA AAP offer the following advice to parents seeking to keep their children up to date on their vaccinations and well visits and stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic:
  • Keep your newborn checkup appointments. Newborns are especially at risk of infection and disease, so it is important to keep babies away from people who may be sick. However, there are also strong reasons to take babies to the doctor in the first week after birth. Weight gain and jaundice are two of the important things to monitor, in addition to making sure that babies get the strengthened immune system that comes from staying up to date on vaccines.
  • Children should stay up to date with well childcare and routine vaccinations. The CDC encourages parents to stay on track with well child visits and vaccinations, which are very important for all young children but especially for those under the age of 2. Not only do vaccines provide children with heightened immunity against life-threatening germs, but vaccine schedules are based on how your child’s immune system responds to vaccines at various ages. Getting vaccines on time gives children early protection and helps prevent complications due to disease.
  • Pediatricians are taking extra precautions to ensure the health and safety of their patients. For patients who do require an in-person visit, doctors are taking extra care to minimize risk. Clinics may be implementing measures such as specific hours and examination rooms for sick visits and well visits, separate entrances for sick patients and well patients, and virtual payments and completion of forms when possible. Exam rooms are being thoroughly disinfected between each appointment. Louisiana pediatricians believe that well child visits and vaccinations are highly important in-person appointments, so they are doing everything they can to minimize risk and ensure patient safety.
  • Telemedicine may be available for some types of visits. Pediatricians are working to care for patients in the safest way possible. Telehealth allows doctors to conduct patient visits using various platforms, addressing many routine complaints such as rashes, stomach pain, eye infections and injuries without an in-person visit. Most insurance companies are now covering telehealth visits, often at no cost to the patient. Check with your pediatrician to see what telehealth options are available for your child.
  • The Department and LA AAP encourages all parents with questions or concerns about vaccines, well childcare or COVID-19 to reach out to their child’s pediatrician or review CDC guidance documents. For specific information about what precautions your child’s pediatrician is taking, please call their office directly. The Louisiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly cautions parents against resorting to unproven advice related to children’s health and COVID-19. The CDC and AAP provide many resources for parents which can help answer questions. Additionally, can serve as a go-to resource for parents on a myriad of health topics.
Over 740 healthcare providers participate in the Louisiana Vaccines for Children Program. In the United States, no child is unvaccinated because of a family’s inability to pay. Contact your healthcare provider or check the LDH webpage on how you can safely keep your family current with recommended vaccinations.