Back-to-School Checklist: See your doctor now for necessary vaccines

Pediatrician makes vaccination to small boy

HOUSTON — Yes, it’s the middle of summer, but now is the time for parents to make back-to-school doctor’s appointments. As part of those check-ups, they should make sure their kids have all the necessary vaccines for their age. That’s true for toddlers just starting preschool, brand-new kindergartners, seventh graders, and young adults beginning college.

“Texas just got another reminder in the news of why vaccines are vital to protecting students of all ages,” said Dr. Lindy McGee, Pediatrician, chair of the advocacy committee for The Immunization Partnership. “There’s an outbreak of mumps among students at the University of Texas at Austin, and the school year hasn’t even begun.”

So far in 2017, Texas has experienced more than 300 mumps cases, making it one of only four states with such high numbers, according to the CDC. “It’s been decades since we’ve had so many cases,” Dr. McGee said.

As the school year draws closer, doctors’ offices will be swamped with requests for appointments. This is the last opportunity to beat the rush.

”Overall, Texas should be applauded,” Dr. McGee said.  “Its vaccination rates for school children remain high, but the increasing number of non-medical exemptions is of great concern.”

But for some vaccinations, the state is not on target to meet Healthy People 2020 goals; worse, the number of exemptions has been increasing and there are pockets of low vaccine rates scattered throughout Texas, according to an analysis by The Immunization Partnership’s staff using state health data. That means those areas lack “herd immunity,” in which enough students are vaccinated to keep disease out of schools and communities. Herd immunity is vital for the small numbers of children who don’t receive immunity from a given vaccine, or who have health issues that make it impossible for them to be vaccinated.

“The very best way to protect your own children from a variety of preventable diseases, and to protect others in the community, is to get your children vaccinated,” McGee said. “And don’t forget your own flu shot!”

Not sure which vaccines children and adults should be getting, and at which ages? Links to the full schedules are available on Parents page of The Immunization Partnership’s website, under “Resources.” Go to http://www.immunizeusa.org/parents/.