A lot of parents across the county and the state are happy that their kids are getting ready to head back to school and, on Tuesday, August 2, state health officials sent out a reminder that parents need to get their kids up to date on vaccinations. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) is reminding families “that vaccinations are an important part of back-to-school success and overall health and well-being.”

Several years ago, this was a lot less controversial topic. In recent years, the debate over vaccines has grown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And, while some people may not be in favor of getting kids vaccinated, NCDHHS stresses the importance. Vaccine-preventable diseases like chicken pox, meningitis, measles and whooping cough are still seen in North Carolina.

Children who are uninsured can be vaccinated at little to no cost through the Vaccines for Children program, which, as the name implies, offers free vaccines to children through 19 years of age.

“Following CDC recommendations to control the spread of all vaccine-preventable diseases is an essential piece of both child and family well-being,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore. “NCDHHS is helping health care providers, parents and guardians take this essential step to protect children's health in school and at home.”

Dr. Dimitrios “Takie” Hondros, the president of the NC Academy of Family Physicians, also said proper vaccination of school kids is very important for public health.

“As children move into their preteen and teen years, they become more susceptible to certain diseases, making it especially important to stay current with immunizations,” Hondros said. “At the same time, preteens and teens tend to have fewer visits to their doctor’s office, increasing the chance that they are not up to date,”. “This decrease in immunizations accelerated among adolescents during the pandemic, when stay-at-home orders went into effect.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes August as National Immunization Awareness Month.

Getting school kids vaccinated is also the law: Whether kids are homeschooled or attend a public, private, charter or religious school, state laws require they stay up to date for certain vaccinations based on their age, as recommended by the CDC.

NCDHHS officials stated that the department is encouraging all parents to talk with their child’s healthcare provider about recommended vaccinations. During that same visit, those officials suggest, parents should talk with their doctor about the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine for their children.

Many pediatricians and family practitioners will provide the COVID-19 vaccine for all eligible family members, as well as teens, during that same visit. People can visit MySpot.nc.gov for more information about COVID-19 vaccines.