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September 9, 2022

CDC Call to Action: Add Routine & COVID-19 Vaccinations to Back-to-School Checklist

By José R. Romero, MD, Director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Late summer is usually a time many families begin preparing to send their children back to school. This is a crucial time when physicians need to communicate with families to add routine childhood and COVID-19 vaccinations to their back-to-school checklist.

During the 2020-2021 school year, vaccination coverage among kindergarteners nationwide dropped more than 1%. With most schools now back to in-person learning, efforts must be made to ensure:

  • All school-aged children are up to date on their routine vaccines and have received recommended COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Routine vaccination coverage is equitably distributed and sufficiently high to protect children, their families, and their communities against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Physicians are trusted sources of information for parents and guardians. They can also help families make the informed decision to vaccinate. Here are some ways they can help catch school-aged children up on vaccination.

Physicians can help make vaccines more accessible

vaccine statistics graph

  • Send reminders to families whose children are behind on well-child visits and routine vaccination.
  • Notify families when children are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. Tell them where they can find COVID-19 vaccines for their children if they're not offered in the office or clinic.
  • Offer vaccination-only appointments or hold vaccination clinics.
  • Administer COVID-19 vaccines at the same time as other routinely recommended vaccines, if recommended and appropriate.

Help share the facts

Catch-up vaccination will require efforts from health care systems, physicians, schools, state and local governments, and families by sharing the facts about routine and COVID-19 vaccines and answering families' questions using resources such as CDC's Quick Conversation Guide on COVID-19 Vaccines for Children.

Facts about routine vaccines

  • Vaccines are safe and effective for your child to receive at the recommended age, and at the recommended dose.
  • Did you know your child may be eligible for free vaccines? CDC's Vaccines for Children program helps provide free vaccines to children who qualify.
  • Getting your young child vaccinated may reduce disruptions to child care and in-person learning and activities

Facts about COVID-19 vaccines

  • Clinical trials and ongoing safety monitoring show that COVID-19 vaccines are safe for children 6 months and older.
  • Emerging evidence indicates people can get added protection by getting vaccinated after having been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. So even if a child has had COVID-19, they should still get vaccinated.
  • COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines can be given at the same visit.

Physicians should make strong recommendations

Physicians should be encouraged to use every visit, including well-child checks, sports physicals, and other appointments, as an opportunity to administer COVID-19 vaccines, as well as other vaccines that are due or might have been missed because of pandemic-related disruptions. Routine vaccination and well-child visits or check-ups are all key to helping keep children safely in school, child care, and participating in other activities.

Fewer children have been sick with COVID-19 compared to adults, but they can be infected with and spread the virus. There is no way to tell in advance if a child will get a severe or mild case.

Vaccinating children is the single best way to protect them from post-COVID conditions and severe illness associated with COVID-19. Health departments have reported thousands of cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children since the beginning of the pandemic. Vaccination reduces the likelihood of MIS-C in children ages 12-18 years by 91%.

According to the CDC COVID Data Tracker, 75% of children 12-18 years of age are fully vaccinated, and 50% of those children have received a booster dose. For kids 5 and older, 71% are fully vaccinated, and 48% of those kids have received a booster dose. Rates dropped for both fully vaccinated and boosters in younger children.

Vaccination is critical to helping protect those disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. They include children from certain racial and ethnic minority groups and children with disabilities.

Help us protect children by doing what you can to get kids caught up on recommended vaccines.

This summer, the WSMA joined the Washington State Department of Health to help physician practices and clinics access the tools and information they need to incorporate the COVID-19 vaccines into their practice workflows and employ effective strategies to engage patients in conversations about the vaccine. Access recordings of the webinars. This activity has been approved for AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™.

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