Health officials urge parents to schedule checkups, vaccinations despite the pandemic

Simple Health

FILE – This Jan. 23, 2020 file photo shows a patient receiving a flu vaccination in Mesquite, Texas. According to a study released on Wednesday, June 24, 2020, flu vaccines for years were close to 60% effective against the flu strain that caused the most lab-confirmed illnesses last winter, but it proved only 31% effective last season. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Public Health is encouraging families to schedule their children’s back-to-school checkups and make sure they’re up to date on all required vaccinations.

The public health agency says doing so is necessary to avoid as health officials other vaccine-preventable outbreaks as the community fights the spread of COVID-19.

Because of the pandemic, the Texas Medical Association reported a drop in parents taking their kids to the doctor’s office.

APH says before the COVID-19 outbreak, Travis County had a vaccination opt-out rate of more than 3% for school-aged children. Texas Department of State Health Services data shows some school districts had rates of close to 50%.

Since the pandemic, data from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that as parents avoid their pediatricians’ offices for checkups, infant immunization rates are down 30%.

In December, Travis County reported its first case of rubella since 1999. Public health officials worry in areas of the community where there are high vaccination opt-out rates, herd immunity may be brought down to an unstable status.

“While we do not yet have a vaccine to protect us against COVID-19, many scientific advances made in past decades have provided us with proven ways to protect us against diseases such as measles, polio, varicella, and many more,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “Ensure your family is up-to-date on necessary vaccinations so we can avoid the comeback of previously eliminated diseases in our community.”

APH encourages families to establish care with a physician for their children. As many doctor’s offices have made changes due to the pandemic and are now requiring scheduled appointments for well-child checks and vaccinations, parents are encouraged to schedule a visit within plenty of time before school starts in the fall.

APH opened one Shots for Tots clinic with limited operations and is already booked through the end of June, with a waitlist.

Parents who don’t have a regular doctor for their children can use this vaccine finder tool to find nearby locations providing vaccinations.

Required vaccinations for school-aged children

Required vaccinations for all students Grades K-6:

  • 2 doses of Hepatitis A vaccine
  • 2 doses of Varicella vaccine
  • 2 doses of Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine
  • 3 doses of Hepatitis B vaccine
  • 4 doses of the Polio vaccine (or 3 doses if one was received after the child turned four-years-old)
  • 5 doses of the Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis (DTaP/DTP/DT/Td/Tdap) vaccine (or 4 doses if the fourth dose was received after the child turned four-years-old)

In Grade 7, more are required:

  • 1 dose of the Meningococcal (MCV4) vaccine
  • 3 dose primary series and 1 booster dose of Tdap or Td within the past five years

In Grades 8-12, one more is required:

  • 3 dose primary series and 1 booster dose of Tdap or Td within the past 10 years

The CDC also recommends two doses of the HPV vaccine for children aged 11-12 and the Meningitis B vaccine between ages 16-18.

APH says at any age, everyone should receive an annual flu vaccine.

For more information on Texas vaccination requirements, visit the Department of State Health Services’ website.

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