Be prepared for back to school – catch up on routine checkups and vaccinations

(BPT) - With many children returning to in-person learning this fall, families are going through their back-to-school checklists. This is the perfect moment to check off one thing that is essential for a healthy start to school: making sure children are caught up on well-child visits and routine vaccinations.

COVID-19 has disrupted many families’ lives, which may have also included children’s checkups and routine childhood vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides vaccines for about half of America’s children. As of mid-September 2021, CDC reports a 13.1 million dose gap in Vaccines for Children provider orders for routine childhood vaccinations during 2020-2021 compared to the prior year. CDC and pediatricians are particularly concerned this may place children at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases, especially measles, which is easily transmitted.

The need to catch up on routine childhood vaccinations is particularly important for a safe return to school. CDC and healthcare providers across the U.S. recommend children stay on track with their well-child appointments and routine vaccinations — even during the pandemic.

“As in-person learning resumes, we want all kids to be protected — and that means getting caught up on vaccines that were missed over the last year,” Dr. Melinda Wharton, CDC's Associate Director of Vaccine Policy, said.

Well-child visits are essential. At these appointments, you can track your child’s developmental milestones, discuss any concerns about your child’s health, and get your child vaccinated to help protect them from 14 serious diseases, including measles and whooping cough.

There are resources available about regular checkups and routine vaccinations that will help answer your questions, such as:

Which vaccines does my child need?

Check out CDC’s easy-to-read childhood immunization schedule to see the vaccines recommended for each age and the diseases they prevent. If your child missed a vaccine, they should get caught up as soon as possible using CDC’s catch-up immunization schedule.

Did you know your child could get free vaccines?

The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program provides free vaccines to children who qualify. About half of American children younger than 19 years old receive their vaccines through the VFC program. Ask your doctor if they are a VFC provider and if you qualify.

Is it safe for my child to go to a doctor’s office during COVID-19?

Many medical offices and clinics are taking extra steps to see children safely during this time. Call your doctor’s office and ask about the special measures they have in place and ways they are safely offering well-child visits.

Can my child receive routine childhood vaccines and a COVID-19 vaccine?

Everyone 12 years and older can safely receive COVID-19 vaccines at the same time as routine childhood vaccines.

Routine vaccinations are safe, effective and can help protect children’s health as they return to everyday activities they love like playdates, birthday parties and sports. To learn more, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/routine.

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