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Routine vaccinations down, as COVID-19 cases up

Paul Vernon / Associated Press

The COVID-19 pandemic is again starting to discourage parents from bringing their kids in for the routine vaccinations of childhood.

In the early days of the pandemic, doctors at Oishei Children's Hospital began to see a fall-off in vaccinations and people not showing up for scheduled appointments, as the virus began to hit hard.

Childrens Medical Director of Pediatric Preventive Care Dr. Dennis Kuo said the problem is back.

"We are seeing kids come in for vaccinations, but it did start to drop off again over the last couple of weeks," Kuo said. "It got a lot better over the summer because as the pandemic locally subsided got much better and the transmission rates were lower, the kids definitely started to come back in."

He said it isn't just the hospital. Kuo said pediatricians in private practice are also starting to see parents or caregivers not showing up for appointments, as the virus has been biting hard in recent weeks. He said that's a real problem for the youngest among us.

"When you're born and you haven't been vaccinated yet, you're susceptible to everything and you need a certain number of vaccines in the infant series in order for them to really be immunized," Kuo said. "You've really got to get your two-, four- and six-month vaccines in before they really, really take hold."

He said it's less of a problem when kids come in for booster shots, because they retain some of the benefits of their earlier vaccinations and that booster shot can be delayed for a few months.

It isn't just the problem of the vaccinations. Vaccination appointments are also a chance for doctors to check out the kids, see if they were developing normally.

"With the young kids, with the babies, you're looking at feeding, you're looking at growth, you're looking at behavior, you're looking at how parents and child are interacting and bonding," Kuo said. "But when you get to the older kids, you're also looking at things like behavior. We are seeing a lot of kids with exacerbations of mental health conditions."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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