Back-to-school vaccines are more important than ever
By Mary Wade Burnside
Here’s one thing that’s not up in the air: the need for back-to-school vaccines.
No matter what happens, children still need to be protected against vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, chickenpox, pertussis and diphtheria.
Now, more than ever, during the COVID-19 pandemic, you don’t want your child to get sick. You wouldn’t want your child to come down with symptoms that can mimic COVID-19 and put you in a panic. You wouldn’t want to have to make sick visits to a health care provider. You wouldn’t want your child’s immune system to be compromised.
This is in addition to, of course, not wanting your child to be in pain and to get an illness that could have lasting effects.
August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and in the next few weeks, we will be taking a look via the Monongalia County Health Department blog at how people need vaccines during all stages of their lives, from infanthood to old age.
It’s also when MCHD Clinical Services holds back-to-school vaccine clinics. We’re actually starting next week, on Wednesday, July 22. Clinic dates are July 22 and 29 and Aug. 5, 12 and 19. Children will need an appointment, which you can make by calling 304-598-5119.
Because it’s time for students to get their back-to-school vaccines, we’re going to start with kids who are around ages 5 through early adulthood.
Here are just a couple of examples why vaccines are important.
It seems like a long time ago, but let’s not forget that just last October, there was concern about a case of hepatitis A in a food worker at an area restaurant. Monongalia County Health Department worked to vaccinate individuals who had eaten there during a certain window of time.
And then there’s the measles. Previously considered eliminated in the United States since 2000, a 2019 outbreak resulted in 1,282 cases in the United States in 2019 and, luckily, only 12 cases so far in 2020. Because of West Virginia’s strict vaccination laws, none of those cases took place in West Virginia.
The CDC offers an easy-to-read guide on vaccinations that babies should receive from infanthood to the age of 6. These are the mandated vaccines that the state of West Virginia requires students to get in order to attend public school.
For children who have been vaccinated according to the current schedule, here is a list provided by the CDC of recommended vaccines for students between the ages of 7 and 18:
- All preteens and teens need a flu vaccine every year. Some children 6 months through 8 years of age require two doses of flu vaccine. Children 6 months through 8 years getting vaccinated for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine this season. The first dose should be taken as soon as the flu vaccine is available, and the second dose should be received at least 28 days after the first dose. In following years, only one dose is needed. Flu vaccines are always important, but vitally so now.
In addition to an annual flu vaccine, three vaccines are recommended specifically for preteens:
- HPV vaccine protects against HPV infections that can cause cancer later in life, including that of the cervix, for which women can be routinely screened, as well as mouth/throat, anus/rectum, penis, vagina or vulva, for which people are not routinely screened.
- Tdap is a booster shot to help protect preteens from whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria. Tdap not only protects the child from these diseases, but also keeps them from giving whooping cough to a young baby who does not have immunity yet.
- Meningococcal conjugate vaccine protects against meningitis and bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia). These illnesses can be very serious, even fatal.
If you haven’t gotten your child vaccinated yet, there is still time. Call your health care provider. Or make an appointment at Monongalia County Health Department’s Clinical Services at 304-598-5119.
MCHD Clinical Services has made some changes in order to be as safe as possible during the pandemic. Forms are sent online the day prior to the appointment, and when you arrive, you can call from your phone to alert us that you’re here. You will be registered and payment will be taken over the phone. Then your temperature will be taken at the entrance. Patients should go to the upper level to the front door.
At some point, we hope to be booking appointments for a vaccine against COVID-19. Until then, it’s very important to keep your kids — and everyone else — as healthy as possible.