Back to school: Minnesota parents urged to get child immunizations up-to-date in the pandemic

A Twin Cities doctor encourages families to catch up on childhood vaccinations before the new school year.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — Amid a pandemic, health experts say it will be more important than ever to protect children from other infectious diseases when they return to school this fall.

For most Minnesota students, the 2021-22 school season begins on September 7. Doctors say routine immunizations will help kids have a healthy start to their school year. Vaccinations are required for most students.

Parents and guardians, now is a good time to make sure your children are prepared, healthy and have all their childhood vaccinations. Doctors say vaccines such as MMR, TdaP and HPV have successfully protected children against measles, mumps, diphtheria and other infectious diseases for decades.

According to the World Health Organization, 23 million children have missed routine vaccinations due to pandemic disruptions. The WHO says 17 million of them did not receive any vaccine last year. Here in Minnesota, a June CDC report saw large declines in vaccines for young children. The number of shots has decreased by 3% to 7% compared to previous years.

The decreases were more significant for children ages 9 to 17 and decreased by 27% to 74% for specific age groups receiving TdaP (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis) and HPV vaccines.

“It is really concerning that we are lagging behind with vaccines for children and adolescents because they protect children and teenagers from highly contagious and dangerous diseases such as measles, mumps, diphtheria, hepatitis, chickenpox, whooping cough, types of meningitis and some viruses that cause cancer. said Dr. Julia Joseph-Di Caprio, Chief Medical Officer of UCare.

“Last year, when the pandemic started, clinics and health systems had to shut down everything except serious medical issues because they were preoccupied with COVID-19,” said Dr. Joseph DiCaprio. “When they reopened, many parents were afraid to take their children for pit visits, so children were behind on preventive care, including vaccinations.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the concern is that when schools reopen, Minnesota will see an increase in infectious diseases that have faded into the background during COVID.

“No one should be afraid to take their child or teen for their well visits,” said Dr. Joseph DiCaprio. “Clinics have established safety protocols. If your child has fallen behind on vaccines, don’t worry, you have time to catch up!”

Currently, COVID-19 shots are available for free to anyone aged 12 and older. Vaccination studies are underway for younger children, but no official CDC authorization date has been announced for that group.

Meanwhile, Dr. Joseph-Di Caprio urges all parents and guardians to call their child or teen’s clinic to get shots if they are due or have received their vaccines. UCare has a helpful schedule for child and teen checkups, and MDH has a breakdown of school requirements for vaccinations at different ages.

As for flu vaccines, said Dr. Joseph-Di Caprio that she supports them.

“Absolutely. Flu shots will be available soon, and I highly recommend children get a flu shot, especially with the return of personal learning and socialization,” she said. “The flu can be dangerous. In addition, we don’t want ‘twin disease’ this fall and winter with children who get the flu and COVID-19.”

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