For the media

Catching up on kids’ vaccinations

By The Health News Team | August 16, 2023
Child in mask getting a shot from a doctor

The school year is right around the corner for many San Diego families. Shopping for items such as backpacks, notebooks and shoes are on most back-to-school checklists. Now is also a good time for parents to make sure their children are on track with vaccinations.

From birth through age 18, children in the United States are routinely immunized against several preventable childhood diseases. These include measles, mumps, rubella, polio, human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis A and B, tetanus, diphtheria and other diseases.

However, many children missed recommended vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic. As summer comes to a close, give your child the best shot at a healthy school year by ensuring they’re up to date on vaccinations.

A worrying trend
According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study released earlier this year, vaccination rates dropped among U.S. kindergartners for the third year in a row.

The rate of immunizations for required vaccines among kindergarten students declined from 95% to 94% during the 2020-21 school year. It dropped further — to 93% — in the 2021-22 school year. That might not sound like a significant drop, but it means nearly 250,000 kindergartners are potentially unprotected against measles.

"Unfortunately, I think there are lots of families who have had disruptions in their health care, perhaps even changes in their coverage," says Dr. Jershonda Hartsfield, a pediatrician with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. "They're not sure where to get vaccines. And there's misinformation online about vaccines."

Fear of exposure to COVID also kept many families from taking their kids to routine well-child visits or vaccination appointments, Dr. Hartsfield says.

It’s never too late to catch up
Vaccinations play a crucial role in protecting children's health and preventing outbreaks of contagious diseases within schools and communities. If a child has missed one or more doses of an important vaccination, they can still get caught up.

“Parents should not feel ashamed or embarrassed because a child missed a shot,” Dr. Hartsfield says. “Vaccine schedules can pick up right where they left off to get children caught up quickly.”

To help patients get back on track, Sharp Rees-Stealy started offering vaccination appointments one Saturday per month at Sharp Rees-Stealy Santee. This allows families to come in for vaccines on a day and time that fits their busy schedule.

"It's never too late," says Dr. Hartsfield. "We want to make sure that we get children in and get them protected with these vaccines."

Don’t wait — vaccinate
Vaccines are safe, effective and protect children from diseases that can be serious and even deadly.

If your child has missed any of their recommended vaccines, or if you are unsure, talk to your child's pediatrician or health care provider as soon as possible. Although each vaccine has a recommended schedule for administration, in many cases, you can pick up where you left off or use a "catch-up" vaccination schedule to keep your child protected. 

Learn more about children’s health; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

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