By Cynthia Morrow, MD, MPH
While many people are enjoying the fun activities that go along with warm summer weather, it is not too soon to make certain your child is caught up on well-child visits with their healthcare professional before school starts again.
Well-child visits are essential for many reasons, including:
- Tracking growth and developmental milestones
- Discussing any concerns about your child’s health
- Getting scheduled vaccinations to prevent illnesses like measles and whooping cough (pertussis) and other serious diseases
Vaccines protect children against many diseases, including some that are extremely contagious and that pose serious health threats, especially for babies and young children. There have been outbreaks of measles, whooping cough, and mumps in recent years, especially in communities with low vaccination rates. Unfortunately, the risk is even greater now because so many children missed check-ups and recommended childhood vaccinations during the pandemic.
What are the risks and benefits of getting my child vaccinated?
Vaccines can prevent infectious diseases that once killed or harmed many infants, children, and adults. Without vaccines, your child is at risk for getting seriously ill and suffering pain, disability, and even death. The main risks associated with getting vaccines are side effects, which are almost always mild (redness and swelling at the injection site) and go away within a few days. Serious side effects after vaccination, such as a severe allergic reaction, are very rare and doctors and clinic staff are trained to deal with them. The disease-prevention benefits of getting vaccines are much greater than the possible side effects for almost all children.
(Courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
As you may be aware, school-required vaccines changed in Virginia for the 2021–2022 school year. To meet state requirements, students new to Virginia schools are required to have a physical and be up to date on their vaccinations. Children who are not up-to-date on their vaccines may be delayed in starting school or going to daycare.
Last year’s new vaccine requirements for entry into seventh and 12th grades include vaccines to protect against meningococcal disease, human papillomavirus (HPV), and hepatitis A, in addition to previously required immunizations. In addition to these requirements, the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts (RCAHD) encourage parents of all children ages six months and up to consider having your children vaccinated against COVID-19.
The public health staff of RCAHD are your partners in health. In upcoming weeks RCAHD will offer numerous opportunities across our localities for students to receive back-to-school immunizations. You can find clinics, including our routine local health department clinics, on our website (https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/roanoke/immunizationclinics/).