Before going back to school, get back on track with routine childhood immunizations
Updated: Sep 21, 2022
With back-to-school season on the horizon, parents are buying classroom supplies, picking up students’ schedules and preparing paperwork. Getting your student immunized is likely part of your school’s enrollment packet. August is National Immunization Month, an observance highlighting vaccines as a vital method to mitigate illness in our community.
As a family medicine doctor, I encourage parents and caregivers to discuss concerns about immunizations with their health care providers. Make an appointment now with your primary care practitioner, pediatrician or county health department to find out what your child needs before heading back to class. Why you should immunize your child before starting school
Safeguarding your child’s health from the very beginning of the school year, before students rejoin their peers in large groups, helps get everyone off to a healthy start.
The science is clear: vaccinating your child is the single most important step you can take to keep them safe from illness this year, from flu and COVID to measles and meningitis. Immunizations are safe and effective, the best way to protect children from illness, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As we saw during the pandemic, illness often disrupts school attendance and participation in extracurricular activities. Frequent absences can make learning more difficult and complicate parents’ schedules too with more missed work days.
Getting vaccinated on time protects our community
Skipping or delaying vaccinations not only leaves children vulnerable to contagious diseases but also exposes others. Keeping your child up-to-date on immunizations also protects families and communities. Babies too young to be vaccinated, immunocompromised individuals, elderly grandparents, teachers and neighbors fare better when those around them help stop the spread.
Between missed well child checks and vaccine hesitancy, the CDC reported an alarming number of children missed routine immunizations during the pandemic. Agency data showed a decrease of about one percentage point of fully vaccinated kindergartners during the 2020-21 school year, which brought coverage levels below the nationwide target of 95%. More than 35,000 students registered for kindergarten had not received all recommended childhood immunizations, which reopens the possibility of outbreaks of diseases like whooping cough and rubella. Millions of lives are saved each year through routine vaccinations.
Talk with your doctor
Taking the time to attend regular checkups is also a factor, especially for working parents. If your child has fallen behind on immunizations, talk with your health care provider to make a plan. The CDC has a sample schedule just for children who need to catch up at https://bit.ly/schoolvaccineplan.
Parents of preschoolers are sometimes concerned with the number of immunizations children receive at one time, especially before age 2. Infants are more vulnerable and diseases are more serious in babies and toddlers. Medical professionals are more than happy to answer questions about vaccines before going back to class. Protecting children with the weakest immune systems makes the biggest impact in saving lives.
Help children and our communities stay healthy this school year and beyond by getting immunized as soon as possible.
Dr. Mercedez Bernard is a family medicine practitioner at Comanche County Memorial Hospital. She is a member of the Oklahoma Alliance for Healthy Families