COVID-19: Help Pave a Path to Recovery

When the pandemic began, the health and safety of underserved children and their communities became a more urgent priority as we quickly saw how the impacts fell hardest on them. That’s why ensuring equitable healthcare has been critical and guided our response to support our National Network partners on the ground. Since last March 2020, we’ve helped procure personal protective equipment when it was scarce to keep clinic doors open. We’ve focused on ensuring communities of color and those in under-resourced areas have access to COVID screening and testing, and can continue to access healthcare services through fixed sites, mobile clinics, and telehealth. We deepened our commitment to expand mental health services and provided financial support to families facing tremendous hardship due to lost work. With an unrelenting pandemic, we are adapting to the needs in this moment and for the future.

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▼ COVID Vaccinations (more)

Children’s Health Fund partners are actively administering COVID vaccines to youth 12 years and older. The vaccine is available in the health centers; on the mobile clinics; in drive-through immunization events; and at schools, shelters, community agencies, and seasonal worker camps.

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In many communities with low vaccination rates, hospitals are once again treating an overwhelming number of patients, and this time children have not been spared. The current Delta variant is 50% more contagious than the original virus. Kids do get sick enough to require hospitalization and some die. Essentially the entire southern part of the country, plus much of the western U.S., have high rates of coronavirus spread. The current situation places all of us at risk.

Black and Hispanic people, like those served by our partners, have experienced the most infections and deaths from the virus, and are vaccinated at disproportionately low rates.

Our National Network is working to ensure access to the vaccine, but they face challenges: handling  large volumes of the vaccine that require use within days or hours; the cost of outreach to sparsely populated areas; ongoing staff shortages; and widespread vaccine misinformation and hesitancy. Each step of the way, Children’s Health Fund has worked to overcome those hurdles with funding, collaboration between partners, and dissemination of accurate, culturally competent information. But the work now is painfully slow, especially as we race against the spread of the virus, with the most effective approach being one-on-one conversations with trusted healthcare providers.

While COVID vaccine trials for children under 12 years of age show promising results, they are still unable to be vaccinated and very vulnerable. The vaccination rate for kids 12 to 17 is still woefully inadequate, especially as most schools move back to in-person instruction.

How You Can Help

COVID vaccinations are safe and effective. Widespread vaccination of all those who are eligible is the only way to protect children. Please support our trusted partners’ education and outreach efforts to help keep kids safe.

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▼ Childhood Immunizations (more)

Routine immunizations are the safest and most cost-effective way of preventing disease, disability, and death. As children go back to school, our partners are working to ensure children are up-to-date on immunizations.

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Childhood immunizations plummeted early in the pandemic, leaving many children vulnerable to preventable diseases. Depending on the age group, pediatric office visits decreased by 21% to 38% in 2020.

Vaccines can prevent 16 childhood infections including some that we don’t see any more, like polio, and others that are very common, like influenza (flu). Missed immunizations leave kids and communities at risk for outbreaks. Every year for the last ten years there has been at least one significant outbreak of measles, mumps, or pertussis (whooping cough) in this country. Our National Network partners work every day to keep kids safe and healthy, including avoiding these preventable outbreaks.

How You Can Help

Help kids get back to their trusted medical providers in our National Network to ensure their  immunizations are up-to-date so they can stay healthy and get back into the classroom safely. Children’s Health Fund  has partners in states where more than 10% of children under three years old are missing a measles vaccine.

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▼ Mental Health (more)

Children’s Health Fund partners across the country are responding to the growing mental health needs of children including stress, anxiety, and mild depression, while also identifying and treating more severe mental health disorders.

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During the COVID-19 emergency response, visits to seek mental health care decreased by 34% (14 million visits) for children receiving Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program). That was during a time that mental health needs were increasing due to stresses from the pandemic. And, children in communities of color are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 infections, deaths, and financial strain, which has heightened fear, grief, and stress among youth.

The effects on children’s routines, socialization, continuity of learning, and missed significant events, makes access to high-quality mental health services critical in reducing increasingly high rates of anxiety, depression, and trauma reported among young people. Social isolation removed school-based and community-based support systems that children previously relied on, making it more difficult for them to cope with these symptoms.

In many states the Medicaid reimbursement rate for mental health encounters does not cover the full cost of service, resulting in clinics with few or no behavioral health counselors. Children without health insurance either forego care or wait for months to get limited services.

How You Can Help

Every one of our partners in the National Network reports needing more mental health services to adequately meet the needs of their patients. Please help fund these critical services.

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