COVID-19 fears putting off doctor visits could hurt kids' vaccine season this fall

With COVID-19 making many parents hesitant to take their children for their routine wellness visits, experts warn that a drop in vaccination rates could be a recipe for disaster. And that means it won't just be COVID-19 parents have to worry about.

Vaccination rates have plummeted since the pandemic began, which experts say could lead to the next pandemic of dangerous and preventable childhood diseases.

"All it will take is a case of measles entering our community and we will see loss of life that is completely and totally unnecessary," said pediatrician Dr. Alix Casler.

A new national survey by Orlando Health found that while the vast majority of parents believe vaccines are the best way to protect their children from infectious diseases, about two-thirds are still fearful of taking their kids to their pediatrician's office because of COVID-19. 

Dr. Casler says, like most pediatricians, she is doing everything she can to ensure the safety of her patients and get them in the door to get caught up on their vaccination schedule. 

"We don't have any crowding in the halls, there's one family at a time, no one sits in the waiting room anymore."

Dr. Casler is contacting families directly to help them overcome barriers to their wellness checkups, whether that's nervousness about COVID-19 or loss of employment or insurance.

The survey also found that skepticism about vaccines is still a major issue, with 38% of parents responding that they don't believe their child needs all the recommended vaccines.

"Unless you've seen the diseases that we're preventing, you cannot grasp the magnitude of benefit that comes from universal vaccination."

The doctor points out vaccines are a victim of their success. Most of us don't have experiences with measles or whooping cough outbreaks because the vaccines worked.  

For herd immunity to be effective, the doctor says 90 to 95 percent of kids have to be vaccinated. Once it drops below that level, outbreak gets risky.