With summer upon us, school immunizations seem a way off. But it is never too early to plan to get ready for going back to school! For some parents, they dream of it all summer!
To successfully complete registration at Collier County Public Schools, all children must have a physical examination and up-to-date immunizations. National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) in August highlights the importance of vaccination for people of all ages.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that children stay on track with their well-child appointments and school immunizations. On-time vaccinations protect children under the age of two from 14 potential life-threatening illnesses. These include measles, influenza (flu), tetanus, polio, diphtheria and whooping cough (pertussis).
Catch-Up Immunizations for School May be Needed
During the pandemic, many children missed some of the vaccinations necessary to protect them from preventable diseases. Children especially at risk of being behind schedule on their vaccines were born during the pandemic. During the first 18 months, infants see their doctors nearly every month and receive immunizations at nearly every visit.
In 2020, more than 22 million infants missed their first dose of the vaccine against measles. Measles is one of the world’s most contagious human viruses that is preventable through vaccination.
The CDC says the number of vaccinated kindergarteners entering school continues to decline. During the 2021-22 school year, the number of covered kindergarteners declined to approximately 93% for state-required vaccinations. This was down 1% from the 2020-21 school year, and 2% from the year before. The percentages vary from state to state.
The CDC offers vaccinations recommendations, immunization schedules and information on disease-specific vaccines. They also have schedules for catching children up if they may have missed vaccinations during the pandemic. Learn more here: cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/index.
The Importance of Well-Child Checkups
In addition to making sure children are up to date on school immunizations, regular well-child checkups are critical. They help ensure a child’s growth and development. Also, they can make sure they are in good health to perform their best in school.
Annual physicals allow pediatric providers to:
- Detect health problems early and develop a treatment plan
- Evaluate a child’s height, weight, and blood pressure
- Encourage positive habits like eating healthy foods and exercising
- Help ensure children’s long-term health
Where to Find Pediatric Primary Care Physicians and Shots for School
However, parents may struggle to find primary care for their children. Collier County is a federally designated Medically Underserved Area/Health Professional shortage Area (HPSA) for primary care, especially in the Golden Gate area.
Healthcare Network opened the Nichols Community Health Center in 2020. The center is a “one-stop shop” for pediatric medical, behavioral and dental health services, as well as pediatric convenient care. Well-child checkups and immunizations are available at Nichols Community Health Center and other Healthcare Network offices in Naples and Immokalee.
Healthcare Network provides the same high-quality care to all, regardless of income or insurance status. It offers a sliding fee scale based on family size and income to patients who qualify.
In addition, families facing financial difficulties may be able to get free or low-cost vaccinations through government programs. A recent federal initiative allows trained pharmacists in every state to provide routine vaccinations to children. This can be convenient for families who may have moved to a new town.
To ensure your child is ready for the first day of school click here to schedule an appointment with a pediatric provider.
About the Author
Salvatore Anzalone, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician and the medical director of pediatrics for Healthcare Network.