Getting Back on Track: The Importance of Immunizations

Restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic caused 23 million children to miss their annual checkups, leaving some parents playing catch-up on their child’s recommended vaccinations. Health care experts say that taking their child to see his or her pediatrician for routine well-child visits and recommended vaccines is one of the best things a parent or guardian can do to protect their child and community from serious diseases and respiratory viruses that are easily spread, such as the flu and COVID-19. Katya Gerwein, MD, a pediatrician at Bayside Medical Group – Berkeley with Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, answers frequently asked questions about wellness visits and vaccines.

Why should I take my child in for well-child visits and vaccinations?

Children and teens need regular checkups with their doctor to make sure their growth development is on track, to discuss nutrition and behavior, and to get the vaccines they need to stay healthy. Not only is staying up-to-date on childhood vaccinations vital to keeping your child healthy, but it can help prevent new outbreaks and keep the community safe as well.

For children with chronic illness, missing regular wellness visits can negatively impact health well into adulthood.

What does a well-child visit consist of?

Pediatricians will monitor growth and developmental milestones, check blood pressure and other vital signs, conduct hearing and vision screenings, offer routine testing for blood lead levels, and check for infections or injuries. For adolescents, we provide menstrual care and depression screening. We can also conduct sports physicals for young athletes.

Is mental health a part of the wellness check, and if so, why is that important?

Yes, assessing your child’s mental wellness is part of the checkup and needed, more than ever. This is when we can learn of any changes in your child’s usual activities, mood, and overall health. We can learn how children are coping with school, friends, family, and any other life changes.

How often should I take my child in for a checkup?

It depends on their age, but generally once a year. It is extra-important to get teens in because this population might be less likely to discuss health issues or questions when they are at home and they may be more comfortable talking to their physician.

Routine vaccines

Are there certain vaccinations that my child needs throughout the year?

Well visits help ensure that your child gets the required vaccines to attend school, go to day care, and participate in sports. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone 6 months of age and older should get an influenza (flu) vaccine every year. Other vaccines follow a schedule based on the child’s age:

Tips to calm anxiety

What are some tips to help anxious kids when they go to the doctor’s office for checkups?

For kids who are scared of going to the doctor, let them know what to expect and why going to get a checkup can be a big help. Validate their concerns. Let them know that the wellness visit is routine and that even parents go in for checkups. Or you can ask the doctor’s office in advance if they offer any rewards for patients. Some small children are very motivated by stickers.

And as always, if you have any concerns about your child’s health, contact your pediatrician to set up an appointment. Stanford Medicine Children’s Health has a number of pediatricians throughout the Bay Area.


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