“COVID-19 Pandemic Fuels Worst Decline in Childhood Vaccinations in 30 Years.” This July 2022 Time Magazine headline underscores the reality that the pandemic is likely to have long-lasting effects that reach beyond the ravages of the disease. We face the return of illnesses we had thought under control — or even eradicated in some areas. When we add reduced routine childhood medical appointments caused by the physical lockdowns to the misinformation promoted by anti-vaccination movements, parents are faced with a different back-to-school conundrum. What do they need to do to get their children ready to return to “normal” in-person classes? What vaccines are necessary? Are they safe?
The CDC provides a detailed Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule which now includes the COVID-19 vaccination and boosters. In order to help parents understand these requirements, as well as address their concerns regarding safety, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) created a two week media tour to have doctors address these issues. As part of their efforts, I was privileged to be interviewed on various Spanish-language TV and radio stations.
As we anticipated, many of the questions from the interviewers were regarding COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, especially now that children ages 6 months and older are eligible and the CDC has issued relaxed school protocols. My answer is that ideally children would be doubly vaccinated — and boosted if possible — two weeks prior to the start of school. Also, don’t wait for updated formulas that were created in response to the newer variants which may not be available for a few months. While those vaccinated might still contract the virus, the likelihood of severe illness has been proven to be greatly reduced.
The Fall is also the start of flu season and we want children to be as protected as possible. There is no medical contraindication in children — or adults for that matter — getting the COVID-19 and flu vaccines at the same time. Only in the case of a previous reaction to a vaccine do we advise that the child receive them a few days apart.
Beyond the concerns over the usual school required vaccinations and COVID-19, I was also asked about the recent outbreak of polio in New York. The good news is that the rate of polio vaccination in this US is quite high. Children are supposed to receive the first round of polio vaccinations when they are infants, with the final dose given between the ages of four and six. That said, if a school age child is not yet fully vaccinated and they live in or are planning to travel to an area where there are cases of polio, then I strongly recommend the parents contact their pediatrician to schedule the vaccine as soon as possible.
It is vital that we keep our children healthy and safe. Making sure that they wear masks when needed and that they wash their hands thoroughly are essential steps. Keeping their immunization up to date is even more crucial.
To watch my interview on Univision’s La Voz de la Mañana, click here
About Eneida Roldan: Eneida is a dynamic physician leader, a vibrant teacher and mentor, and a dedicated board member with service on an array of for-profit and not-for-profit boards. She has held executive positions in a full range of health care settings, including private and public hospitals, academic medical centers, and entrepreneurial medicine in the field of wellness and health promotion. She is passionate about advocating for diverse women in leadership positions and providing strategic solutions to improve business efficiency and effectiveness, while ensuring inclusive healthcare to all. Her most recent accomplishment has been providing crisis management throughout the pandemic to the Miami community.
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