Your Health: Back-to-school vaccinations

If your child is due for a well visit, now is a great time to schedule that appointment to get vaccinations before school starts, especially amid the current health pandemic.

The new school year is upon us and parents are hoping for a year of continuous, safe learning for their children. If you have older children, you are faced with the decision as to whether or not to get them the COVID vaccine, but remember it’s also important to keep your children up to date on other vaccines as well.

According to Jeff Mincher, MD, who is a family medicine physician at AdventHealth Medical Group, some parents delayed annual well visits for their children last year, especially early in the pandemic when there were many unknowns. If your child is due for a well visit, now is a great time to schedule that appointment to get vaccinations before school starts, especially amid the current health pandemic.

“Public health measures like routine childhood vaccinations are incredibly important to keep our society functioning and help future generations stay healthy,” said Dr. Mincher. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us exactly why this is the case. It was shocking to see how quickly normal life came to a screeching halt last year when social distancing, hand hygiene and masks were our only defenses.”

Along with traditional immunizations, Dr. Mincher also recommends children get their annual flu shot by October. With mask mandates in effect only in certain areas of the Kansas City metro, we may see more flu cases this fall than we did last year so it’s important to get your shot. If you are considering the COVID vaccine for your child, Dr. Mincher suggests you space out the flu and COVID vaccines by two weeks so get the COVID vaccine now before flu season begins.

Many parents are understandably hesitant about their children receiving the COVID vaccine, but Dr. Mincher feels the vaccine is our best defense against the virus and recommends all eligible adults and children 12 years and older get vaccinated.

“If you are unsure or have questions, which is OK, discuss them with your primary care doctor,” said Dr. Mincher. “Other reliable sources of information include the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians websites, but I would definitely avoid relying on social media or Google searches.”

There are many reasons why parents are reluctant. Some may feel like COVID is only affecting older people and the chances of their child becoming ill with the virus are slim. Or maybe they are hearing about side effects kids have experienced after taking the vaccine. We asked Dr. Mincher about these concerns.

“It’s true that those at highest risk for complications are the sick and elderly, but I have also seen plenty of young healthy people hospitalized with severe complications from COVID-19,” said Dr. Mincher.

According to Dr. Mincher, the vaccine is not 100% effective at preventing COVID, but significantly reduces your risk of catching the virus and especially of developing serious complications from it.

“The risk of COVID-19 and the related, potentially severe complications are still greater than the risk of the vaccine itself,” said Dr. Mincher. “Getting the vaccine also protects those around you who may be more vulnerable, especially as school starts and we approach cold and flu season and the holidays. It’s the same reason that speed limits exist, not just to protect drivers but others on the road as well.”

For younger children not yet eligible to receive the vaccine, Dr. Mincher encourages mask wearing in schools even if it is not mandatory.

“I think most of us are eager for children to return to in-person learning at school and this is the best way to help make that possible and prevent closings,” said Dr. Mincher.

If you have questions regarding vaccines, speak with your primary care physician. If you need a primary care doctor, visit MyHealthKC.com to find one who is right for you and your family.