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A Look At The Importance of Back-To-School Vaccines Amidst a Pandemic

We’re so grateful to Erin, of Erin’s Inside Job, for partnering with us to share about National Immunization Awareness Month! Read her full blog post here.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and given not only the continued effects of COVID-19, but also the decrease in well-child visits over the past year, I thought it was important to address both in today’s post. I’ve worked with I Vaccinate for over two years now and I love and support the work they’re doing to help educate and assuage fears around vaccinations — things that are necessary amidst the sudden increase in misinformation found online. To do so, here is a concise look at the importance of back-to-school vaccines.

Although one might think that our experience with COVID-19 would reinforce the importance of routine vaccinations, it seems to have actually decreased the number of children who have stayed up to date. In an effort to quarantine and minimize exposure during this pandemic, parents have actually kept children home and missed important vaccination appointments. While that may seem like a good idea, it actually puts children and adults at risk for preventable illnesses and isn’t necessary due to the fact that many, if not all, doctor’s offices have implemented strategies to keep patients safe during appointments, including mask wearing, health screening questions, drive-up visits/vaccinations, etc.

Repeated studies show that vaccines are safe, but deviating from their schedule is not. Before vaccines, parents in the United States could expect that every year:

  • Polio would paralyze 10,000 children.
  • Pertussis (whooping cough) would kill 8,000 infants.
  • Measles would infect about 4 million children, killing about 500.
  • Rubella (German measles) would cause birth defects and intellectual disabilities in as many as 20,000 newborns.
  • Diphtheria would be one of the most common causes of death in school-aged children.
  • A bacterium called Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) would cause meningitis in 15,000 children, leaving many with permanent brain damage.

Why it is important to follow the CDC-recommended vaccination schedule

  • Following the recommended immunization schedule protects infants and children by providing immunity early in life, when they are most at risk for getting seriously ill from these diseases if they are exposed.
  • The recommended schedule has been developed so that your child is protected and receiving the vaccines at the age when he or she will have the best response to develop immunity.
  • Infants and young children who do not follow the recommended immunization schedules and instead spread out shots—or leave out shots—are at risk of developing diseases during the time that the shots are delayed. 
  • This results in more frequent visits to the doctor’s office, more stress and anticipation of shots and increased costs for you.
  • The schedule is recommended by the CDC and is also approved by every major medical organization in the country, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
  • The CDC-recommended schedule is the only schedule that has been carefully tested, studied and reviewed by medical experts prior to being recommended for children.

In addition, with hospitals and ICU’s at a decreased capacity due to COVID-19 cases, it’s important that children are protected to prevent further, unnecessary hospitalizations.

COVID-19 and children

While evidence seems to indicate that children are largely spared from the devastating effects of COVID-19, there are more nuances that need to be highlighted. Even if children experience a milder form or show no symptoms, they can still carry the disease and spread it to other populations. There are also reports of a rare, but serious, medical condition that can affect children exposed to the COVID-19 virus. Known as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), this disease can be life-threatening in children, so limiting chances of exposure to the COVID-19 virus is advised.

What to know about the COVID-19 vaccine and children

At this time, there are three COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use in the U.S.:

  • Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine: This vaccine can be used for people 12 years of age and older.
  • Moderna COVID-19 vaccine: This vaccine can be used for people 18 years of age and older.
  • Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine: This vaccine can be used for people 18 years of age and older.
  • COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials for younger children are underway. Ensuring vaccines are safe is a critical process that begins during vaccine development and clinical trials and continues after vaccines are authorized or approved for use. This process has been used for vaccines for flu, polio, measles, mumps, pertussis and more. 

Until we know more about the COVID-19 virus and its effects, the least we can do is make sure that our children are protected against the multitude of deadly, preventable illnesses that have plagued us in the past. It’s understandable to want to protect your children and question information before making decisions, but make sure that you get your information from reputable, scientific sources. Many of those can be found on the I Vaccinate website, where links to scientific studies help answer any questions or concerns you may have.

Make those doctor’s appointments. Get up to date on those back-to-school vaccines. Please help make the world a little bit safer.

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About I Vaccinate

I Vaccinate provides information and tools based on real medical science and research to help Michigan parents protect their kids. Support is provided by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Franny Strong Foundation.

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