Don’t let COVID-19 keep you from practicing good health

USAF / Angelique M. Perez

Getting routine vaccinations is particularly important

The Minnesota Medical Association (MMA), the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (MNAAP) and the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP) have partnered to encourage Minnesotans to practice good health and maintain routine childhood vaccinations.  

Vaccinations in Minnesota and across the country have drastically decreased due to COVID-19 and fears associated with seeking health care at a physician’s office or other medical clinics. It is estimated that from 70 to 80 percent of Minnesota’s children have delayed physician visits, important vaccinations, chronic health care and routine treatment of everyday illnesses because parents are understandably concerned about bringing their children to the clinic for fear of exposure to the virus. 

“Minnesota’s physicians strongly urge parents to continue with their children’s routine vaccinations for the health and safety of their children, families and the community,” said Keith Stelter, MD, MMA president. “Healthcare practices and clinics are doing their part to ensure a safe, secure and healthy environment for patients and vaccinations.” 

The MMA, the MNAAP and the MAFP believe all children should be vaccinated except for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. Widespread, high rates of vaccination serve to protect the most vulnerable among us, including newborns, those with cancer and other conditions which impair their immune system, and elderly adults. 

This “community immunity” serves to protect those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. The safety of vaccines has been overwhelmingly established through decades of research and study.

“It is crucial to continue scheduled vaccinations to protect children and prevent diseases like measles and pertussis, which can be extremely dangerous in children and easily spread in communities,” said Lori DeFrance, MD, FAAP, MNAAP president. “Pediatricians and medical clinics are open and prepared to take care of patients and children, provide vaccinations, and maintain the recommended schedule of preventive and routine care.”

“I know the COVID-19 pandemic has a lot of patients nervous, but now is not the time to stop getting important vaccinations,” said Renee Crichlow, MD, MAFP president. “We all must practice good health, and getting scheduled vaccinations for you and your children is critical to that. Talk to your pediatrician or family physician about the importance of vaccines if you have questions about their safety.”

Minnesota’s ‘personal belief exemption’

Under current state law, children must be vaccinated to attend public school in Minnesota. However, Minnesota is one of about 15 states that allow parents to exempt their children from immunization requirements based on their personal beliefs.

Statewide, about two percent of children are exempted from immunization requirements. These children are concentrated in certain areas of Minnesota. For example, about 10% of kindergartners in Wadena County have not received their MMR vaccine. 

Two pieces of legislation that would eliminate the personal belief exemption for vaccine requirements and fund a grant program that supports community outreach and education about the importance of vaccines have been introduced in recent sessions. The MMA, MNAAP and MAFP have supported these bills, but neither has been signed into law. The MMA believes Minnesota’s personal belief exemption should be repealed because it puts both the individual’s and public’s health—particularly the most vulnerable among us—at risk.

About ‘Practice Good Health’

The MMA this month launched Practice Good Health, a unified effort of its 10,000 physician members to empower Minnesota families to proactively care for their physical and emotional well-being, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Practice Good Health provides patient clarity and directly supports Minnesota physicians to create the safest possible care environments and experiences. 

Join the conversation online via Facebook and Twitter and share ways to #PracticeGoodHealth. Resources will be available and will be regularly updated on mmed.org/PracticeGoodHealth

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