Since the onset of COVID-19, the CDC has reported a large decline in pediatric visits and a drop in immunizations. But despite the ongoing pandemic, well-child visits are still considered essential appointments and are critical to the health and well-being of children and young adults.
Immunization schedules were designed for a child’s immune system, and missed appointments could have a significant negative impact on a child’s health. Sticking to a schedule also helps prevent illnesses and unnecessary medical costs. In order to improve outcomes for our youngest members, outreach is critical. By boosting awareness through active communication, we can help families understand the importance of regular vaccinations and how to safely access these essential services.
Medicaid and public health help families access immunizations
Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provide health care coverage to almost 40 percent of all children under the age of 19 in the United States. As a result, both programs play an important role in ensuring access to needed childhood immunizations. Specifically, the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit available to children and adolescents enrolled in Medicaid and under 21 years old requires that states, and by extension health plans, provide all recommended vaccines to eligible children.
For some children on Medicaid, as well as those with no health care coverage, the Vaccines for Children Program (VFC) can help families that might not be in a financial situation to pay for their child’s immunizations. Through this federally administered program, vaccines are offered at no cost to eligible children through VFC-enrolled providers such as hospitals, public health clinics and community health centers. This program serves as a critical resource right now given the loss of health care coverage for many due to the economic impacts of COVID-19.
Fostering confidence in COVID-19 protocols
Helping families feel safe as they prepare for a well-child visit is critical to keeping children on an immunization schedule. This includes communicating COVID-19 protocols so that families know what to expect upon arrival at a health care facility. This information can also inspire a sense of security that proper safety measures have been put in place to keep guardians and their children safe.
UnitedHealthcare Community & State is continually monitoring immunization rates and working to educate families on the importance of these visits. We are also continually looking for new ways to help support federally-qualified health centers as they provide this care for some of our youngest members. By addressing unmet needs and promoting well-child visits, we can help improve outcomes for children during COVID-19.