By Anna Jauhola
Over the last couple of months, well-child visits and immunization numbers have dropped throughout the state of Minnesota, and it’s no different at Kittson Healthcare clinics. Providers have noted the drop after not seeing regular patients.
Healthcare officials are urging parents to continue bringing their children for well-child checkups throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The main idea behind these appointments is to keep up on all their routine care,” said Andrea Swenson, RN, director of clinic nursing at Kittson Healthcare in Hallock. “When you get behind with that, it can be complicated to get caught back up. Even though COVID-19 is very real and very scary, the other diseases that vaccines are currently available to prevent are also very real and very scary.”
Swenson said these visits are important because practitioners measure mental, emotional and physical development. This helps provide early intervention should they notice any differences from what they should be seeing. They also screen for risk assessment such as lead, tuberculosis, vision, hearing and oral health.
Kittson Healthcare typically maintains a high immunization rate for its patients, which helps protect not only those children immunized but also those around them, Swenson said.
Since the clinics have seen a drop in well-child visits, Swenson said she encourages parents to call and discuss bringing their child or children in for their regular visit. The clinics are both taking precautions to ensure the safety of all who visit, whether they’re ill or in for a regular checkup.
Kittson Healthcare has been fortunate to continue with well-child visits throughout the pandemic but has designated rooms to isolate ill patients from those without symptoms. They also screen everyone who enters the clinic, provide hand sanitizer and facemasks, and ask people to call in before making an appointment.
There is no shortage in childhood vaccines and Kittson Healthcare has plenty in stock. Swenson said because Kittson County has only had one confirmed case of COVID-19 and hasn’t had high rates of community transmission they have been able to continue with all well-child visits.
In larger cities, in Minnesota and elsewhere, overrun clinics have had to prioritize and dedicate a certain amount of staff to handle only newborn through 24-month-old well-child visits.
“Just because they feel that is the most important group to stay on that regularly scheduled well-checkup,” Swenson said. “But we’re not in that situation here. We are able to manage well-child visits at both clinics and are encouraging all age groups to come in.”
Swenson said it’s important for parents to keep their kids on their regular immunization schedule because they are given in a series. It is most important to keep immunization appointments for younger children whose immunities aren’t built up yet. She said to be fully protected, the series of shots must be completed, and maintaining boosters is also encouraged.
“The people who get children immunized don’t just protect the child, they protect everybody around them,” Swenson said. “It’s not something you want to see go by the wayside, because eventually, it could impact everybody.”
By Anna Jauhola