What to Do if Your Child’s Vaccinations Have Gotten Behind Schedule

Let’s take a moment to acknowledge that there are so many reasons people can’t make it to a doctor’s appointment in normal times (scheduling, transportation, and cost among them). Add in a global pandemic and it’s no wonder that kids have missed their pediatrician appointments or well visits and, as a result, have fallen behind on their routine vaccinations. But let’s not forget, vaccines have been around for centuries and have since greatly reduced the global burden of diseases worldwide. Meaning, it’s important to make those appointments a priority.

According to the CDC, of childhood and adolescent recommended vaccines during March – May 2020 was substantially lower than those administered during the same time period in 2018 and 2019. We are continuing to see similar trends today. The WHO and UNICEF report that due to backslides in administered doses of Diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) vaccinations — a marker for global immunization coverage — recommended vaccination rates are at the lowest point in over 30 years, and still declining.

But as tough as it’s been to schedule and keep these appointments lately, they’re so important. According to Dr. Maria G. Aramburu de la Guardia, a board certified child and adolescent pediatrician who focuses and advocates for child mental health (follow her @pediatricsmom), it’s during a well-visit, that your pediatrician monitors growth, development, and preventive health.

Why a Vaccine Schedule is Important

Some well-visits include routine vaccinations, which help protect babies and children from 14 potentially serious diseases by the age of two. “The consequence of missing these vaccines is the unnecessary risk of being exposed to a virus or bacteria that might cause a baby or child to become sick, be hospitalized, develop complications of certain conditions, or even die,” Dr. Aramburu de la Guardia says.

“If you have any concerns with any vaccines, never consider missing a well-visit checkup for that reason. Go, and ask your trusted healthcare provider all of your questions. Pediatricians prioritize joint decision-making with families.”

“If you have any concerns with any
vaccines, never consider missing a well-visit checkup for that reason.”

How You Can Catch Up

If your child is behind on their CDC-recommended vaccinations, your pediatrician will follow a CDC-reccomended “catch-up schedule” to get them up to date on their immunizations. The exact schedule varies depending on a few factors. “Some vaccines can’t be given together, and some need multiple doses,” Dr. Aramburu de la Guardia says. But if your child received a first dose of a vaccine that requires multiple doses, they won’t have to start over. “Patients can pick up where they left off. For example, if your child received their first dose of hepatitis B, then they can get a second dose even if the recommended interval has passed,” she explains.

Sometimes in a catch-up schedule the time between doses will be shorter than the regular well-visit checkup schedule, so expect to be at the pediatrician’s office more frequently. “We want the patient to be protected in the shortest amount of time possible,” Dr. Aramburu de la Guardia says. If you’re trying to get your child caught up before school starts that shouldn’t be a problem according to Dr. Aramburu. Your pediatrician will work with you to determine the best way to get them back on track.

Bottom line: Talk to your pediatrician about scheduling an appointment and make sure everyone gets the protection they need.

This article was developed with financial support by and in collaboration with Pfizer, Inc.

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