Back To School Season is Immunization Season
By Stephanie Woehl, Communicable Disease Prevention Coordinator
The start of the 2022–23 school year is upon us, which means homework, field trips, and, unfortunately, a higher chance of illness. With crowds of kids headed to the classroom every day it can mean a child is more likely to end up with a virus due, in part, to proximity with classmates and school staff.
But there are preventative measures parents can take to keep their kids safe and healthy like teaching them good hygiene and most importantly, immunizations. Although some diseases in the list of childhood immunizations may seem like concerns of the past, that doesn’t mean that they are gone for good or that vaccines don’t work to keep your child safe.
Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data showing that state-required childhood immunizations in kindergarteners dropped by one percentage point during the 2020–21 school year.
For Kindergartners, this could mean falling behind in their scheduled diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough vaccine doses, Polio (IPV), measles, mumps, and rubella, as well as chickenpox.
The U.S. has done a great job at utilizing vaccines to stop the spread of illness to the point that they have become so rare. However, the downside to this is that we’ve created a preventative climate that may make us think that vaccines are less important.
But they’re just as important now as they ever have been.
With childhood immunizations down, the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases is starting to occur. In 2019, the greatest number of measles cases were reported in the U.S. since 1992 with 1,282 individual cases. The majority, according to the CDC, were among people who were not vaccinated against the virus.
Additionally, a case of Polio was detected in New York just last week, in an unvaccinated person. Polio has been eradicated from the U.S. for over 30 years but is still present in other countries.
Polio has historically impacted young children. Kids often put their hands in their mouths and do not adhere to hand washing hygiene like adults, putting them at a higher risk of contracting polio which can spread through fecal material or respiratory droplets. Often the vehicle which drives these infected particles into the body is the hands.
Locally, there is a small percentage of children in public schools across Greene County who have not received immunizations. However, diseases like measles, which is very contagious, can spread rapidly in those who have not been vaccinated. If one person has it, 9 out of 10 people around that person could also become infected if they are not protected. An effective way to reduce the risk of any outbreak is to get vaccinated.
Let’s celebrate the back-to-school season and National Immunization Month by talking to our child’s healthcare providers to ensure all vaccines are up to date. Parents can also help teach their children important handwashing habits that can help reduce the risk of illness and keeping your kiddo home when sick.
Everyone at Springfield-Greene County Health is wishing all kids across Greene County a happy, safe and healthy 2022–23 school year!