As a parent, a big part of your job is ensuring your child’s health and well-being. You want your child to thrive! One of the most effective and safe ways to ensure your child’s health is by keeping them up to date with their vaccines; this is especially important as you send them back to school this fall.
Outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases do happen.
We don’t see evidence of vaccine-preventable diseases in our everyday lives like the generations before us did. This provides a false sense of comfort and makes some people think it’s okay to delay or skip routine childhood vaccines. The truth is, these diseases are no longer a part of our everyday reality because vaccines work. Still, the viruses and bacteria that cause vaccine-preventable diseases haven’t gone anywhere, and with low vaccination rates in a community, we risk spreading them. Delaying or skipping routine childhood vaccines is a dangerous risk to take with your child. It also puts others at risk, including vulnerable individuals like cancer patients and the elderly.
In Rockland County, New York, where there is a low polio vaccination rate, one individual was recently diagnosed with the disease. This is the first polio case in the U.S. since 2013. Wastewater samples verify that the virus is circulating in the community. Polio can cause paralysis and death, and young children are especially susceptible. But polio is not the only cause for concern. This interactive map from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows other recent outbreaks across the country, including mumps and measles. These potentially dangerous diseases can return and spread in our communities if we let vaccination rates drop.
Make sure your child’s vaccines are up to date.
Recent reports show a significant decline in routine immunizations. In Colorado, data show that while Colorado childhood vaccination rates are improving, they are still lagging behind pre-pandemic levels. This means we are not where we need to be to ensure our community’s health. While this is cause for concern, it shouldn’t cause panic. It should, however, prompt you to ensure that your child is on schedule with routine vaccines such as DTaP (which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis), MMR (which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella), and Hib (which protects against Haemophilus influenzae type B).
You can find a list of all the vaccines required for Colorado school and childcare entry here, and you can check your child’s vaccine records through the Colorado Immunization Information System. If your child is behind on their vaccine schedule, it’s okay. You can still get them on track! By making sure they are caught up, you can have confidence in knowing you’ve given your children the best protection – especially as they return to school and spend their days around other students. When kids are vaccinated, they protect their friends and classmates, too. Vaccination can also ensure your child won’t be excluded from school or miss important learning opportunities due to illness.
Making sure your child has been vaccinated against COVID-19 is important, too. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, some people have proclaimed that COVID-19 infection in kids is not a big deal. That’s often not the case, as many healthcare workers describe, including Children’s Hospital Colorado emergency physician Dr. Lalit Bajaj. Dr. Bajaj shares his experience caring for hundreds of kids with COVID-19 in this YouTube video. He describes the COVID-19 complication that many children develop, called MISC, as “a devastating syndrome that happens about four to six weeks after a child gets COVID.” There is also concern over flu and kids this coming season as described in this article from USA Today stating that experts “are worried school-age children and teens may be at more risk this year.” Making sure your child gets their flu and COVID-19 vaccines will help keep them healthy at school and throughout the respiratory illness season.
A note on safety.
Some parents have fears about vaccine safety. The truth is, vaccines undergo rigorous testing and are monitored for safety continuously. In fact, as Voices for Vaccines points out, “you are 333 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to have a serious adverse reaction to a vaccine.” So while your child may experience mild reactions such as redness at the injection site, fatigue, or mild fever (all of which mean the vaccine is working to create immunity) after vaccination, the chances of them having a serious reaction are extremely rare. Vaccines are safe, vaccines are effective, and vaccines protect us!
Trust the experts and ask them your vaccine questions.
It’s completely normal to have questions about vaccines – especially when it comes to your child! There is a lot of information out there regarding vaccines, but a lot of it isn’t accurate. Especially on social media – vaccine misinformation is rampant. Navigating all these voices makes it difficult to make informed decisions. To be sure the information you get is correct, talk to your child’s medical provider about your concerns – they’re the expert on your child’s health!
Be a part of the solution!
You probably did not grow up in a time or place where vaccine-preventable diseases were common. Unlike generations before us, childhood death and severe illness are likely not familiar experiences. But without vaccines, we risk these diseases coming back. We can all do our part to protect our children and others they interact with. We can help ensure their school community is healthy by vaccinating them against vaccine-preventable diseases, COVID-19, and flu. Vaccines are one of the best tools you have to protect your child’s health and set them up for a successful school year! For more information about where to get vaccines for your child including no and low-cost vaccine clinics, visit our Vaccine Information page or schedule a visit with your child’s medical provider today.
Immunize Colorado was formed in 1991 in response to alarmingly low vaccination rates across the state. At the time, only about 50% of Colorado’s children were adequately vaccinated. A group of physicians and other concerned individuals came together to strategize how to best protect Coloradans from vaccine-preventable diseases. Much work remains. You can donate or discover other ways to get involved to support our commitment to healthy Colorado communities today!