As parts of the state reopen, Levine urges routine vaccinations for children

    Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health.

    With 13 more counties moving from the red phase to the yellow phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s three-part reopening plan on Friday, state health officials urged parents and guardians to make sure children are getting their routine vaccinations as soon as possible. 

    “I know parents are concerned about their children’s safety when visiting their doctor,” state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said at an online news briefing Thursday. 

    “We want to make sure that children get the vaccinations they need in order to stay healthy,” she said. 

    Levine said the Health Department has heard from pediatricians across the state, concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed routine vaccinations and “well child” visits. 

    “We know that during the stay-at-home order people have not been going to well child visits,” Levine said. 

    Levine said that primary care doctors have made changes to their practices to ensure the safety of children and families who require care during the yellow phase.

    Those changes include seeing patients for wellness visits at different times of the day than patients who require sick visits and moving wellness visits to different facilities, when possible. 

    Levine expressed concern that a delay in routine vaccinations could cause a spike in childhood illnesses such as the measles. 

    “Vaccines are a great way to protect yourself and your family,” Levine said. 

    In addition to vaccines, Levine, a pediatrician by specialty, said that on Friday she hoped to have data to share from Pennsylvania’s six children’s hospitals about the number of cases of a possible COVID-related inflammatory syndrome in children. 

    Levine also noted that state health officials are working on a guidance for children’s summer camps. 

    Giving an update of counties that have already made the transition from red to yellow, Levine said that, so far, there have not been any spikes in positive COVID-19 cases in those counties, but added that it’s only been six days and that the incubation period for the virus is 5-14 days. 

    Levine said her agency would begin looking into cases in yellow counties more closely next week.

    Cassie Miller
    A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.