Immunizations: the back-to-school item kids can’t do without

Parents can help protect children, communities and prevent disease outbreaks with recommended vaccinations that can be done at a local pharmacy or doctor’s office.

Parents can help protect children, communities and prevent disease outbreaks with recommended vaccinations that can be done at a local pharmacy or doctor’s office.

It’s time to return to the classroom. But crayons and backpacks aren’t the only things that should be on your back to school lists –immunizations are an important and necessary part of preparing for the new school year.

“This is the time for you to get organized, plan time for doctor’s visit if needed and ensure all your child’s immunizations are up-to-date,” said Victoria Pho, Pharm.D., assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy. “Children need to be vaccinated on time and with the recommended schedules.”

The recommended immunization schedule for children from birth through 18 years of age describes the vaccines that are needed, the number of doses, and the age at which each dose should be received. Many vaccines must be given at regular intervals, and if too much time passes between doses it can become ineffective. Some vaccines, such as the flu vaccine, must be given each year. If children are behind on key vaccine dosages, most schools will not allow them to start the school year or will require that they provide proof of receiving the necessary vaccines by a certain date in order to continue attending school.

Children are not protected if they miss the dose schedule, which makes them vulnerable to illness.  Parents can help protect children, communities and prevent disease outbreaks with recommended vaccinations that can be done at a local pharmacy or doctor’s office. Back-to-school season can be a stretch for families on a tight budget, but vaccinations don’t have to be sacrificed due to cost. Free preventive care programs are available through Texas Vaccines for Children.

“These programs serve children under 19 who are Medicaid-eligible or have no insurance,” said John Bowman, associate professor of pharmacy practice at the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy.

If children are not vaccinated, they are at risk of catching dangerous illnesses like the flu, whooping cough, measles or other infectious diseases. Once children are infected, illnesses can spread to others who were not immunized, including those who can’t be immunized because they are too young or have weak immune systems.

“Environments like schools and day-care centers where there is a lot of close contact are a prime source of rapidly spreading infectious illnesses such as the common cold, flu, meningitis and others,” Bowman said. “The exposed child can return to the home and expose other family members as well. The best way to prevent spreading diseases is to vaccinate, and it can be done by your local pharmacist or doctor.”

Thanks to technology, today it is easier than ever before to keep up with vaccine history.  In Texas, patients have access to ImmTrac, which is a statewide immunization registry that conveniently stores immunization history for both adults and children on an electronic system for free and for a lifetime.

“Often families leave their children’s immunization history in the hands of a medical provider or clinic,” Pho said. “Then when they move to a different state or need the information for work or school, they have lost track of vaccination records. ImmTrac offers a solution for this common problem. All you have to do is register and get your family’s immunization history organized and up to date in the online system.”

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an immunization tracker form patients can print out to record children’s immunization records and other important milestones.

So, as your family prepares for going back to school, remember to check the vaccination list for your children as well as the school supplies list. It could save lives, including your child’s, and will protect your family and your community.

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