sponsored by VCU Health
~ Immunization Awareness Month ~
By J. Chevonte’ Alexander
Can you believe we are halfway through the summer? There is just about a month left of the summer vacation and our children will be returning to school in the fall. As we start back to school clothes shopping or shopping for school supplies, now is also the best time to start planning for getting the kids ready for back to school immunizations. That’s right – shots!
Getting vaccinated, according to the recommended immunization schedule, is one of the most important things a parent can do to protect their child’s health. Diseases can quickly spread among groups of children who aren’t vaccinated. Whether it’s a baby starting at a new child care facility, a toddler heading to preschool, a student going back to elementary, middle or high school – or even a college freshman – parents should check their child’s vaccination records. It’s better safe than sorry!
Dr. Elizabeth Wolf, a general pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University comments, “Immunizations are one of the best medical interventions that scientists have ever created. Immunizations are a way to stimulate the body’s own immune system to fight off certain bacteria and viruses. Before vaccinations, childhood death was a relatively common occurrence but now, thankfully, it is a rare event.”
During the month of August, Immunization Awareness Month, Dr. Wolf encourages families to stay up to date on vaccinations for their children and for themselves. Families can check out the schedule laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules. If you are unsure if you or your child are up to date, check with your doctor’s office.
Child care facilities, preschool programs, schools and colleges are prone to outbreaks of infectious diseases. Children in these settings can easily spread illnesses to one another due to poor hand washing, not covering their coughs and other factors such as interacting in crowded environments.
When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk for disease and can spread disease to others in their play groups, child care centers, classrooms and communities – including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions. Additionally, states may require children who are entering child care or school to be vaccinated against certain diseases. Colleges and universities may have their own requirements, especially for students living in a dorm.
Urban Views Weekly asked Dr. Wolf how she would address a family who is apprehensive to getting their children vaccinated.
“I would encourage them to talk to their child’s doctor. Studies have shown that families rely on their child’s physician for reliable scientific information. Vaccines are extremely well studied and safe. I would also refer them to the Vaccine Education Center created by Dr. Paul Offit at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), which can be found at http://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/vaccine-education-center.”
“This center does an excellent job of answering parents’ questions one by one. I would warn parents about the abundance of misinformation on the Internet. Websites that are trying to sell a particular product or service may not be giving accurate information.”
So, as we start back to school shopping, it is important that parents and children are also taking the appropriate medical steps to make sure their child is completely ready to go back to school.