We all want to keep our children healthy and on track with immunizations, but it can be tricky when you constantly move. Switching doctors multiple times becomes frustrating when you have to repeatedly ask for your medical records to be sent to your new provider. You come to trust and rely on one doctor and then before you know it, it’s time to move again. Transitioning to a new health care provider can be stressful on both parents and military children.
According to a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics this year, 28% of military children between the ages of 19 and 35 months are not up to date on their immunizations compared with 21.1% of all other insured or uninsured U.S. children.
The conclusion of the study was that the most likely reason for this is that military children move so often.
Two other reasons for this include the lack of a universal military children immunization registry to collect and store all the records of immunizations as well as incomplete documentation of vaccinations.
Some parents of military children are diligent about keeping track of their kids’ vaccination schedules and continue to make appointments on time no matter where they are stationed. There are an array of circumstances that could prevent military children from receiving regular medical care however that is beyond the parents’ control. There was an Hib (haemophilus influenza type b) shortage between 2007–2009, which prevented many military children from receiving this shot, for example.
Not all doctors recommend the same shots, nor do they all follow the same timeline for when each vaccination should take place. The American Academy of Pediatrics does provide a recommended schedule of vaccinations that is meant to introduce immunizations at a particular period in a child’s development, but it isn’t always followed. Some parents fear the potential risks that may be involved with different shots or getting multiple shots in one visit.
This can lead to some vaccinations being delayed or missed all together for military children.
Finding a new medical provider and getting an appointment each time the military sends a family and their military children to a new military installation can be difficult.
In small hospitals, such as the one on NSF Dahlgren which only has 2 doctors, it can be difficult to get an appointment. It can be just as hard to get an appointment at military treatment facilities on large military installations where there are many doctors because there are so many military children and other dependents trying to make appointments.
How can you as a parent of military children ensure they get the proper treatment on time?
Most importantly, you should keep track of their medical records and not rely on a hospital to do it for you. Ask for a copy of the documentation of each vaccine they receive at the time of that appointment. You can get an immunization tracker card from your health care provider. You will need a copy of your child’s immunizations for child care, school enrollment, camps and international travel and it is much easier to have this on hand than to wait for your clinic to provide one.
Take the time to become knowledgeable about vaccines. If a previous physician has recommended an immunization and your new one does not, or vise versa, you need to know why and be able to make an informed decision as to whose recommendation you want to follow. Some doctors suggest spreading out vaccines while others lump multiple shots into one office visit. You need to understand why and speak up if you want to separate them.
If you are able to, while you are at the doctor’s office, make the next appointment for your military children to have their next well visit. This will ensure that you keep them on time for getting the next round of vaccinations.
If the office does not make appointments that far in advance then put a reminder on your calendar to call closer to the date needed. It’s easy to tell yourself you’ll remember to do so, but life gets in the way and especially when the military sends you and your military children to a new location.