Summer is in full swing! This means families are more likely to be thinking about cookouts than vaccinations. However, increased flexibility in schedules and lower levels of commitment on the calendar make these months an ideal time to catch up on annual physicals and immunizations. Here are some reasons why revisiting your family’s vaccine status during the summertime may be a good idea!
Your child may have fallen behind
Studies have shown that between 7 and 16 months of age as many as 1 in 5 children fall behind the immunization schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Children can fall behind for all sorts of reasons: missed doctor’s visits; new vaccines; new or revised vaccine recommendations; illnesses or other constraints that prevent getting some or all vaccines during a visit; or even new diagnoses, such as asthma or a heart condition that might dictate a change to previous vaccination recommendations. Most providers have systems in place to review vaccinations at office visits. However, if children do not visit the doctor regularly or the particular practice does not utilize a reminder system, children may remain susceptible to diseases against which they could be protected.
Getting ready for school
While the return to the classroom may still feel far off, the upcoming school year will arrive quickly. As the start of school draws closer, appointment openings often dwindle. Therefore, proactively scheduling annual physicals or those required for fall sports earlier in the summer will allow for more appointment choices and provide an opportunity to check on the vaccine status of your child. The extra time in the summer also offers an opportunity to schedule a special outing before or after the office visit. This will give your child something to look forward to rather than something to dread.
Another time that it is often necessary to think about vaccines is when students are heading off to college. As with schools, colleges will typically provide information about vaccine requirements, and they typically require proof of immunizations. Of note, colleges may require vaccines that your teen did not need to attend K-12. This is because teens living in close quarters, such as dorms, may be at higher risk of suffering some diseases than they were when they were simply sharing a classroom.
New vaccine laws or mandates
Vaccine requirements for school entry are defined by each state. Therefore, what is required in New Jersey may differ from what is required in California or Maine. One issue that may arise is if the state recently changed its vaccine recommendations or if your child is entering a grade that has vaccine requirements that differ from kindergarten requirements, such as middle school. School districts are typically proactive about letting affected students and their families know of such changes or requirements, but sometimes papers don’t make it out of lockers or backpacks, mail gets set aside and forgotten, or details are simply overlooked. For example, Pennsylvania recently finalized a regulatory change that decreases the grace period for students who are not fully immunized from eight months to five days. This means that if students are not fully immunized within the first five days of the school year, they may be subject to exclusion from school until they are vaccinated or the exemption criteria are met.
Vaccines may also be necessary if you recently moved to a new state that has different vaccine requirements than where you previously lived. Most often, these requirements will be explained when you register your child, but if you are not moving until the end of the summer or you are waiting until closer to the start of the school year to register, you may want to check the requirements in the new state.
If you are trying to figure out your state’s immunization requirements before school begins, the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) has links to state vaccine resources (See the “additional resources” section below).
While vaccines may not be at the top of your summer activities list, taking the time to make sure your family is fully protected and ready for the upcoming school year can decrease stress during the last days of summer or at the outset of the busy fall season.