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State officials are encouraging parents to keep wellness and vaccination appointments for babies.

Understandably, parents have been reluctant to bring their babies to the doctor for vaccinations and wellness visits during the lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Data from both the Louisiana Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a sharp drop in vaccine orders from January through April, according to information from the state.

However, state officials say, steps have been taken to mitigate risks and are urging parents to schedule visits, especially those for vaccinations, which need to be kept up to date to protect infants from preventable diseases and decrease the risk for disease outbreaks.

“As we work to reopen our economies, maintaining routine immunization during the pandemic is critical especially for children 24 months or younger, pregnant women, people of all ages with chronic health conditions and seniors,” said Dr. Frank Welch, medical director for the LDH’s immunization program. “Many major health professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the CDC and World Health Organization have issued guidelines to safely remain up to date on immunizations.”

From LDH and the Louisiana chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics comes this advice for parents:

Keep checkup appointments for newborns — Newborns are especially at risk of infection and disease, so keep them away from people who may be sick. Also, pediatricians should see newborns in the first week after birth to monitor weight gain and jaundice.

Schedule wellness visits and routine vaccinations — Vaccines provide children with heightened immunity against life-threatening germs, and vaccine schedules are based on how your child’s immune system responds to vaccines at various ages. Getting vaccines on time gives children early protection and helps prevent complications due to disease.

Minimized risks — Pediatricians are taking extra precautions to insure the health and safety of patients. Clinics are implementing various measures, such as specific hours, examination rooms and entrances for various types of visits (sick or well) and online payments and completion of forms. Exam rooms are being thoroughly disinfected between each appointment.

Telemedicine — Using online platforms, doctors are conducting some visits to address many routine complaints, such as rashes, stomach pain, eye infections and injuries. Most insurance companies are now covering telehealth visits, often at no cost to the patient. Check with your pediatrician to see what telehealth options are available for your child.

Ask questions — Parents with concerns about vaccines, well child care or the coronavirus are urged to reach out to their child’s pediatrician or review CDC guidance documents. For specific information about what precautions your child’s pediatrician is taking, call their office directly.

Online help — HealthyChildren.org is a go-to resource for parents on a myriad health topics.