HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and a statewide coalition of healthcare professionals and community leaders has an important message for parents and caregivers: Schedule your child’s back-to-school vaccine appointment today.
A 2021 Virginia Annual Immunization Survey reported a visible drop in kindergarten entry vaccination rates from 84.8% to 80.4%. Infants, small children, college students, seniors and other Virginia communities should complete missed vaccinations before returning to school and other in-person settings.
Rebecca Epstein serves as senior program manager with ImmunizeVA.
She said many routine vaccinations, including meningitis, HPV and Hepatitis A, were delayed because of missed annual doctor’s visits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Just the smallest decrease in immunization rates we can see the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases,” Epstein said.
Epstein highlighted the polio outbreak in some parts of New York state.
She also addressed vaccine hesitancy and shared advice with families who avoid vaccinating their children.
“I would say parents need to make the best decision for their kid. Having concerns is perfectly normal and encouraged. Talk to a healthcare provider that you trust," Epstein explained. "There’s a lot of information available online, but it’s not accurate. Talk to someone who has experience, someone you trust like a medical provider that give you the right information to make informed decision to make the right decision for your family."
Vaccines can be found at your local health department at no to low cost.
ImmunizeVA also warned that flu season is forecasted to be worse this year compared to previous years. The Virginia Department of Health has already reported the first child death due to the flu.
A wide range of vaccines is recommended for children and teens that require multiple doses at specific ages and times.
Virginia’s school immunization requirements align with the recommended schedule from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Family Physicians.
There are important vaccines for adults as well, including some recently updated recommendations for certain vaccines like pneumococcal.
Adults should receive an annual flu shot and booster shots every 10 years to protect themselves from tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. Talk to your medical provider today to ensure you are up to date on your vaccines.