COVID disrupts some kids' immunizations; unexpected virus present

As COVID-19 precautions ease, communities may be ready for life to return to normal. But how will children's immune systems respond to the change of pace?

A local expert told FOX6 News she isn't as worried about kids' immune systems catching up – but is concerned that many children have fallen behind on routine immunizations.

"It’s been such a strange, strange year," said Dr. Margaret Hennessy, Ascension All Saints chair of pediatrics.

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Amid masking, social distancing and hand-washing, Hennessy said the pandemic also resulted in a drop in routine care.

"The biggest thing now that makes us nervous, and we’re trying to scramble for, is really trying to catch up all the kids on their vaccines," Hennessy said.

Ascension All Saints Hospital

As cases of COVID-19 rose and restrictions kept people home, many children went without regular exposure to day care, school and even playdates.

"We are coming back together. We are putting kids back in schools, and the worry is that we're going to spread other diseases that are vaccine-preventable," said Hennessy.

Some diseases that come to mind for Hennessy include tetanus, meningitis, human papillomavirus infection (HPV), and measles.

"It’s so contagious, if I had measles in one part of my building, through the air ducts, it could spread to the entire building," said Hennessy. "If we let pockets (of people) go unvaccinated, we’re going to see these diseases coming back."

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Hennessy also warns about an unexpected trend that doctors are seeing with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), which typically presents in the winter months, but currently, she said, is on the rise in southern states.

RSV can be associated with severe disease in children and older adults. There is no vaccine for the virus, but Hennessy said physicians are keeping an eye on the potential for it to move north.

"To start to see it popping up now is unusual," said Hennessy. "We've never been through this before, so we have no playbook."

The CDC Vaccine Schedules app outlines recommended immunizations for both children and adults. In each category – for example, birth to 6 years old – users will find a table showing age and dose information for each shot.

Additional CDC immunization guidance can be found HERE

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