Routine well-child care and vaccinations have declined dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, as parents avoid medical services to mitigate the transmission of the coronavirus. While Magnolia Health (Magnolia) recognizes the health concerns of Mississippi communities, it encourages parents to continue to schedule checkup appointments and get early vaccinations for young children to protect against preventable diseases.
The stay-at-home orders to control the COVID-19 pandemic may have caused individuals to question the safety of health clinics and the significance of childhood checkups. Specifically, among children aged five months, vaccination rates have declined from approximately two-thirds (66.3%) of children during 2016 – 2019 to fewer than half (49.7%) in May 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC reports similar trends among older children as well, with non-influenza vaccination rates decreasing by 21.5% for children under 18 years old and younger.
“With lower than normal vaccination coverage among all age groups, children may be at higher risk for vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, whooping cough, chicken pox, and more,” said Aaron Sisk, plan president & CEO of Magnolia Health. “Even during these uncertain times, it’s important that we continue to encourage everyone to protect themselves, including getting immunizations to protect children from preventable health complications.”
Using telehealth services, a physician will be able to deliver healthcare services such as well-child care exams. Amid the pandemic, Magnolia has implemented the following guidelines for telehealth services:
- The Mississippi Division of Medicaid (DOM) has extended its coverage of enhanced telehealth services through the end of the public health emergency.
- The policy improves access for beneficiaries by allowing them to receive telehealth services in their homes without a telepresenter present, cutting back on unnecessary travel, clinic visits and possible exposure.
- Beneficiaries can use their cell phones, computers or other devices to receive care from a DOM-approved distant-site provider.
- The policy also increases the types of providers who can deliver telehealth services, including Rural Health Clinics and Federally Qualified Health Centers.
- For more information, view the Emergency Telehealth Policy and FAQs at medicaid.ms.gov/coronavirus-updates.
In-person visits are still an option too, as hospitals and health clinics across Mississippi have been regularly updating safety procedures to help avoid coronavirus transmission. Throughout the pandemic, healthcare workers have continued to support communities with their health needs using personal protective equipment to safeguard themselves and patients, so parents can feel comfortable in scheduling necessary doctor appointments for their children.
To help ease the uncertainty of clinic visits, Magnolia encourages parents to take steps that can further help to protect themselves and their family during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are a few safety steps that can help the entire family prepare for in-person visits:
- Before scheduling a doctor appointment, call the clinic or check its website to find out what is being done to keep people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Before the day of the doctor visit, parents may receive a call from the clinic asking about any symptoms of COVID-19 across the family.
- Be sure to follow standard precautions during the doctor visit: wear a face mask, wash hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer, and cover mouth while coughing or sneezing with tissue.
- Practice social distancing by maintaining a distance of at least six feet from others (this may be indicated by markings on the floor).
- Avoid contact with frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, elevator surfaces, and touchpads. Be mindful of the surfaces young children touch and are in contact with.
- Use touchless payment options such as a mobile payment system. If that is not an option, use credit cards if possible.
Magnolia can help members connect with their primary care physician, either through telehealth services or in-person visits. Members can use the Find a Provider tool at magnoliahealthplan.com or call their Magnolia representative at 1-866-912-6285 (Relay 711).