The COVID-19 pandemic has made vaccines more important than ever, while at the same time making it more challenging for children and adults to get their vaccines. We asked CrossOver family nurse practitioner Katie St. Germain to help us better understand why vaccines are such a hot topic in 2020.

Q: COVID-19 has made it tough for some guardians and parents to get their kids in for regular check-ups. Is it too risky to go to the doctor right now?

A: In general, medical offices are taking lots of extra precautions including masking, social distancing, additional cleaning and sanitizing, and screening patients and staff upon entry. Given these precautions, the benefits of preventative care outweigh the risks for most patients. If you or your child has increased risk factors for COVID-19, or if you have questions about safety, please call your provider and seek their advice.

Q: Some kids are behind on vaccines because of the pandemic. How worrisome is this? 

A: There have been reports of about a 30% decline in pediatric vaccinations in Virginia since COVID began. With that many children not receiving the vital protection offered by vaccines, there is concern we could see an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable illness such as measles or pertussis. The good news is we can easily get kids caught up. Please be sure to encourage parents and guardians you know to get their kids up to date on vaccinations as soon as possible.

Q: Flu season isn’t far off. Who should get a flu vaccine this year?

Everyone who does not have a medical contraindication should get a flu vaccine every year, but especially this year. COVID and influenza share many of the same symptoms. Once the flu is in our midst, it will become a more complicated clinical picture as we diagnose and treat sick patients. Additionally, we don’t want people’s immune systems being weakened from influenza to then come into contact with COVID or vice versa. Getting a flu vaccine is one of the most effective ways to prevent the flu in addition to frequent hand washing and social distancing measures. The CDC suggests that September and October are good months to get a flu vaccine.

Q: What is CrossOver doing to help ensure that patients have access to vaccines?

A: We are working to review the charts of the 400+ children in our pediatrics program and contact those patients’ families to schedule an appointment if they need to update vaccinations. In addition, CrossOver works with the Virginia Department of Health to provide annual flu vaccines to our patients. We anticipate an increased need for flu vaccines this year, so we are planning ahead to be sure we can meet that need.

Katie St. GermainKatie St. Germain is a family nurse practitioner. She has been at CrossOver, where she cares for children and adults, for four and a half years. Thanks to Katie for offering her expertise for this article.