ThedaCare: Pediatricians encourage families to take action to help keep children healthy

NEENAH, Wis. – A new report recently published by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Georgetown University Center for Children and Families highlights the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on preventative pediatric care.

According to the report, pediatric office visits fell 27% during the pandemic, for various reasons, including economic hardship and safety measures put in place to limit exposure to COVID-19.

“Wellness checks help care teams and families monitor the health and development of infants and toddlers,” said Dr. Sharon Rink, Pediatrician with ThedaCare Physicians-Darboy. “These visits are a great opportunity to discuss any concerns parents might have about their child, such as eating/feeding issues, sleep schedules, growth and overall development. As providers, it’s important for us to see our young patients regularly to make sure they are growing and developing appropriately.”

With the decline in pediatric well-child visits, health systems are also seeing a drop in childhood vaccinations. According to the data from the World Health Organizations (WHO) and UNICEF, 23 million children missed out on basic vaccines through routine immunization services in 2020 – 3.7 million more than in 2019.

Dr. Rink says immunizations protect children from diseases such as measles, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and others that can cause serious long-term health issues and also death.

“Several vaccinations are given in the first two years of life,” Dr. Rink said. “The schedule ThedaCare follows has been studied and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other professional health organizations. This schedule is the most effective in terms of immune response and protection against the common viruses and bacteria that can be fatal to infants and young children, and/or affect their growth and development. For many of these infections, the only treatment is prevention.”

ThedaCare pediatricians are encouraging all families to schedule and complete recommended well-child visits and immunizations to help protect children.

“It’s especially important to make sure we are protecting our children from diseases that can be avoided by safe immunizations,” said Dr. Rink. “Disease outbreaks would be catastrophic for communities, and potentially lead to less in-person learning. Health systems are also continuing to respond to COVID-19, and in some parts of the country, seeing a significant number of infections, making paramount to ensure every child receives the preventative care they need through immunizations.”

Plan Now for Back-to-School

The CDC recently announced new masking guidelines and recommendations for the 2021-2022 school year to protect students against COVID-19. Masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated. Those recommendations also imply that fully vaccinated students generally do not need to wear masks in the classroom. The CDC also recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, combined with indoor mask wearing by people who are not fully vaccinated, to reduce transmission risk. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as indoor masking. The CDC also noted that some schools may choose to require everyone to wear masks.

Right now, children 12 and up are eligible for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Until vaccines are given full approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), experts believe it’s unlikely COVID-19 vaccines will be required for school attendance.

“With most school districts in Wisconsin scheduled to begin classes on or around September 1, families should be planning ahead if they would like their children fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before students return to the classroom,” said Dr. Rink. “Since children 12 and older are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, they should receive their second shot three weeks (or 21 days) after the first dose. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second shot in a 2-dose series.”

Based on the recommended dosing schedule, students would need to begin their vaccine series the week of July 26 in order to be fully vaccinated by the first day of school. All patients under 18-years-old who are being vaccinated will need to have a parent/guardian with them at the vaccination appointment for consent. Written consent will not be accepted.

Increasing Access to COVID-19 Vaccines

The three vaccine-only clinics include ThedaCare Physicians-Appleton Gateway, ThedaCare Physicians-Neenah and ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca.

To ensure coordination and continue ThedaCare’s long history of delivering vaccines safely and effectively, the system will continue offering COVID-19 vaccines at select Primary Care and Pediatric Clinics, while continuing to offer doses at the above three designated vaccine clinics. Patients can receive COVID-19 vaccines as part of their primary care visit at the following clinics:

LocationAddressDate to Begin Offering VaccineVaccine Manufacturer
ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Appleton

2701 E Enterprise Ave., Appleton, WI 54913Monday, July 19, 2021 Pfizer
ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Darboy

W5282 Amy Ave. Suite A, Darboy, WI 54915Monday, July 19, 2021 Pfizer
ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Neenah

640 Deerwood Ave., Neenah, WI 54956Monday, July 19, 2021 Pfizer
ThedaCare Physicians-New London   *COVID-19 vaccines are available at this location as part of a primary care visit or for patients who call and would only like to receive the vaccine.  1405 Mill St, New London, WI 54961Monday, July 19, 2021 Pfizer
ThedaCare Physicians Internal Medicine-Appleton

2500 E Capitol Dr. Suite 1200, Appleton, WI 54911Monday, July 19, 2021 Moderna
ThedaCare Physicians Internal Medicine-Neenah

333 N Green Bay Rd., Neenah, WI 54956Monday, July 19, 2021 Moderna

“We want our patients and community members to have convenient options and easy access to the protection against COVID-19,” said Dr. Rink. “If a family would like a child to receive the vaccine during a well-child visit or a child’s sports physical, or any other visit not associated with a significant illness that is good opportunity. Our goal is to ensure a smooth, easy process for all who choose to receive their vaccine.”

ThedaCare is working to get all primary care clinics approved to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine by early August 2021.