(StatePoint) As students return to classrooms, doctors say that it’s important to ensure that children are up-to-date with routine childhood vaccinations.
“The evidence around vaccinations is abundantly clear; they’re safe, effective and will help protect you, your loved ones and your community from preventable diseases. If you have questions about vaccines, their safety or effectiveness, please speak to your physician. We are here for you, eager to answer your questions, and ensure your family is protected,” says Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, M.D., M.P.H., president of the American Medical Association (AMA).
In an effort to promote a safer, healthier school year for everyone, the AMA is sharing these vaccine facts and insights:
— Vaccines are safe, effective and save lives. Routine childhood immunization is highly effective at preventing disease over a lifetime, reducing the incidence of all targeted diseases, including measles, mumps, rubella, polio and chickenpox. For the US population in 2019, vaccines prevented more than 24 million cases of disease.
— The benefits of vaccines can be quantified. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccination of children born between 1994 and 2021 will prevent 472 million illnesses, almost 30 million hospitalizations and more than 1 million deaths, saving nearly $2.2 trillion in total societal costs, including $479 billion in direct costs.
— Vaccination rates have fallen. Even before the rise in vaccine misinformation and disinformation associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine hesitancy was increasing, elevating the risk of community outbreaks, which put under-and unvaccinated children at risk for serious illnesses, like measles. According to a mid-January 2023 report from the CDC, vaccination coverage decreased in most states for all vaccines among kindergarteners for the 2021-22 school year when compared with the previous school year, which was already below pre-pandemic levels.
— Speak to your child’s physician. With increased misinformation around vaccinations, it is critical that you seek out reliable, evidence-based sources for information. These sources may begin with websites like getvaccineanswers.org, but they should also include your child’s physician.
Physicians can also answer questions on the new monoclonal antibody therapy, nirsevimab, available for infants and children under the age of 19 months, for the prevention of RSV disease.
— Don’t let cost be a barrier. Programs like Vaccines for Children (VFC) are federally funded to provide no-cost vaccinations to children whose families otherwise could not afford them. Parents can learn more by contacting their state or local health department.
“Make an annual well-child visit and immunizations a part of your household’s back-to-school routine,” says Dr. Ehrenfeld. “Doing so will protect you and your family from a number of preventable illnesses. It’s something I do for my own children, and I urge you to do so, too.”