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Report on COVID-19’s Impact on Pediatric Health Care in South Carolina

Survey Reveals Flu Vaccinations Are Critical During Pandemic

The Institute for Child Success (ICS) conducted a survey of 69 pediatricians across the state in May 2020 on behalf of the South Carolina American Academy of Pediatrics. The inquiry was designed to gauge pediatric health in the state and how COVID-19 has impacted the industry. The subsequent report, COVID-19’s Impact on Pediatric Health Care in South Carolina: Supporting and Strengthening the Sector, is an analysis of those findings and existing public health data sources as they relate to population health, patient/family health, business/professional health and physician health.

Even as children have largely lower rates of contracting COVID-19, their families and the pediatric sector have been negatively impacted during this crisis as a result of the economic recession, stay-at-home policies reducing available services, social isolation, and more. The results of the survey are alarming, among the notable findings:

·    Types of visits that saw a decline since the start of the pandemic – well-child and vaccination visits both down 83 percent, acute condition dropped 91 percent and chronic condition visits slipped 90 percent.
·    Accommodations, such as altering physical space and times of sick/well visits were commonplace; 90 percent of respondents reported using telehealth for at least some visits.
·    There has been lower reporting of child maltreatment in the forms of child abuse and preventable injuries despite there being an increase in times of crisis.
·    Pediatricians face a slew of concerns, from revenue declines, securing PPE, insurance covering telehealth, safety of staff, well-being of patients/families, and financial stability of their practice.

Read the full report here, www.instituteforchildsuccess.org/publication/covid-19s-impact-on-pediatric-health-care-in-south-carolina/.

Population health includes impacts on vaccination rates and primary care infrastructure. Pediatricians in the state were asked which types of visits they had seen diminish since the start of the pandemic. Well-child and vaccination visits were both down 83 percent.

A key concern regarding pediatric vaccinations is expanding the reach of the seasonal flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns falling behind on regular childhood immunizations could result in an increase in vaccine-preventable diseases in communities. The combination of missed acute care and well-child visits as well as significant changes and stressors in a family’s life puts children and families at risk of exacerbating medical conditions.

An analysis of vaccination administration data from the South Carolina Immunization Registry (maintained by the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control, or DHEC) illustrates a decline in vaccines given since the pandemic began. Dr. Robert Saul, President of the SCAAP, said, “This decline is very concerning now and going forward. It is imperative that we get back to emphasizing the importance of vaccines that eliminate preventable serious diseases. We must not lose all of the gains of the past.”

One other crucial aspect of pediatric vaccines is complying with the recommended childhood vaccination schedule. In addition to the necessary catch up of the regularly scheduled childhood vaccines, the AAP and others have recommended widespread influenza vaccination for children and adults in the upcoming flu season. While these vaccines will not protect against a COVID-19 infection, they can reduce stress on the healthcare system in the case of another wave of COVID-19 infections as well as reduce the likelihood of false alarms as both diseases have similar symptoms (fever, cough, fatigue and body aches). The AAP and others recommend extending flu season to cover September to December.

The Institute for Child Success report examines impacts on children, their families and child health professionals and provides recommendations for supporting and strengthening the pediatrics sector to ensure a healthy future for all of the state’s children. One thing you can do to help, is schedule your family’s (children 6 months of age and older) flu shots today.

About the South Carolina American Academy of Pediatrics
The South Carolina Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization that works toward establishing a safe environment for children, promotes the availability of universal vaccine, promotes health care access and financial reform of the health care system, promotes family support and a nurturing environment, and is an advocate for children’s needs.

Lisa Maronie

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