Children's healthcare woes exacerbated by COVID-19, Medicare head says

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting children in ways beyond the coronavirus, including getting treatment or vaccines for other childhood illnesses.

Seema Verma, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, visited the Chicago area to meet with health leaders and discuss the pandemic and its effect on children.

"The loss of the services, really, can create a second public health crisis for our children," she said. "We have seen nationwide a 22% decline in childhood vaccinations, so for our low income and vulnerable children, we know getting vaccines on time is already a challenge on a good day."

Verma is a member of the president's coronavirus task force and a political ally of Vice President Mike Pence. Participants in the meeting welcomed it.

"We are worried here in Chicago that the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color have left many African-American and Latinx children where they are bereaved with the loss of parents and grandparents in ways that are just the tip of the iceberg for behavioral health concerns," said Matt Davis, head of pediatrics at Lurie Children's Hospital.

The administrators heard from stakeholders that the saving grace for children's health has been the creativity healthcare providers have employed with telehealth, especially as it relates to children's behavioral issues.

"Telehealth has been wonderful to move forward screening for social determinants of health, and I think we've done something like 70,000 screenings or telehealth visits," said Lee Francis, Erie Health Services.

The roundtable ended on the need to ensure an equitable distribution of a future vivid vaccine to the nation's kids. The administrator said the Trump administration had that well in hand

"I think the efforts that we are making around vaccines are I'm going to be important for the next steps for the flu and COVID vaccines," she said. "And again that's why we were doing this call to action across the country we have got to catch up on vaccines encourage people to get the flu vaccine and When the COVID vaccine is available too."

Correction: Dr. Matt Davis was initially identified as working at Northwestern University Hospital. He works at Lurie Children's Hospital. Our story has been updated to reflect this.
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