HURRICANE, W.Va. — In recognition of National Infant Immunization Week the American Academy of Pediatrics-West Virginia Chapter and the West Virginia Immunization Network encourage West Virginians to take steps to protect their infants and young children from vaccine-preventable diseases.

COVID-19 has resulted in many rapid changes to the medical and public health systems in our state, however one thing remains constant: infant and early childhood vaccinations are essential.

Although some medical services have been postponed for the time being, childhood immunizations are being offered. It is recommended that infants and young children continue to receive their first set of childhood vaccinations following the Childhood Immunization Schedule, even during the stay home order.

This first series of vaccines provide immunity to infants and young children so that they are protected from 14 diseases such as whooping cough, diphtheria, measles, polio, mumps, tetanus, and more.

“These are infectious diseases that we have the ability to prevent. It is essential we continue to protect children from the diseases that can be prevented,” Lisa Costello, Assistant Professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine and President of the WV Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics said.

Although travel restrictions are currently in place, those restrictions will eventually be lifted, and domestic and international travel will resume. As a result, contagious diseases will begin circulating once more.

This can put young children at risk if they are unvaccinated when diseases, in addition to COVID19, begin to spread again.

Keeping children up to date on their vaccines is a vital step to ensure that an outbreak of vaccine-preventable diseases does not follow on the heels of this pandemic.

Most children’s healthcare providers and health departments in West Virginia are offering well-child and early childhood vaccinations services at this time and clinics are taking steps to prevent transmission of COVID-19 to patients that are at the clinic for well-child exams and immunization visits.

Many have put practices into place to offer well-child visits and immunization visits at different times or on separate days than sick visits. Some healthcare providers are offering sick and well visits in different locations.

If you have questions about the childhood immunization schedule or what steps your child’s clinic is taking to protect children and families when they visit, call your child’s healthcare provider.

Health insurance plans cover childhood vaccines and the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program provides vaccines for children 18 years and younger who are uninsured, underinsured, Medicaid-eligible, American Indian, or Alaska Native.

For help finding a local healthcare provider who participates in the VFC program, contact a local health department. For more information about childhood vaccines, visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents.

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