With flu season around the corner, one pediatrician says it's important to keep up with regular visits to the doctor for young children.

Dr. Danelle Fisher, vice chair of pediatrics at Providence St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, tells Inside the Issues many children may have missed a vital set of vaccines because of shelter-in-place regulations at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Unfortunately, because of COVID, we have seen vaccine rates fall across the country, and a lot of those vaccine rate declines are because people are not accessing health care when they're supposed to," she said.

"The vaccines help protect children from diseases that are present everywhere. There are viruses and bacteria that are present all over, and we can't protect the kids unless they get timely vaccinations," Fisher said. "So if you have skipped a set of vaccines or a checkup for your child, please schedule it today. Schedule it as soon as possible." 

As a pediatrician for 19 years, she reassures those who fear vaccines can cause autism that science has debunked those theories.

"I've been giving the vaccines for 19 years, and I can tell you that I have never seen a child turn autistic overnight, that parents' concerns about vaccines are absolutely something I talk about on a regular and daily basis, but a lot of those fears have been overblown by the anti-vax community and, indeed, proven incorrect with science," she said. "But, when we're looking at the science, the science dictates how safe these vaccines are, and I would never do anything for the patients that I thought would cause them any harm."

She stressed the importance of getting vaccines on time to help prevent infectious diseases.

"There is nothing about this pandemic that precludes our children from needing to space out vaccines or not come to the office to get vaccines," she said. "It is more important than ever to vaccinate and that anybody who has questions or doubts should be able to have a respectful back and forth conversation with their physician who can give them important information to read about the health and safety of the vaccines."

When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, Fisher said she is already mentioning it to parents and reminding them of the importance of getting the flu vaccine, although some are also skeptical of that vaccine. 

"Some people are plus-minus on the influenza vaccine for a lot of different reasons. I'm a little nervous that some people are going to look at a coronavirus vaccine in much the same way," she said. "What I tell them is this: First of all, there is safety data, and there is testing that is being done to make sure this vaccine is safe. Second of all, I will be the first person in my office to get the vaccine when the shipment arrives — I look forward to getting it."

"I get the flu vaccine that comes out before I give it to the patients, so I know what the side effects are, what to look for, what my experience with it was, and I can't think of anything that's a better endorsement than your physician saying, 'I got this vaccine. It's safe for me. It's safe for my family. It's safe for your family,'" she continued. "These are going to be conversations that are going to happen a lot in the coming months. We always welcome questions. We welcome a good, respectful back and forth. But I will say let's trust the science on this one, and let's try to get everybody protected as soon as we can."

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