LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — We are near the start of school and that means time is running out for students to get up to date on vaccinations. They are required even if students choose the 100% virtual option.
Wake Up Central is your “back to school central” with your child vaccine checklist to get you ready for the new year.
Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, Medical Director of Immunizations for the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), said getting up-to-date on vaccines is always important but even more so amidst a pandemic.
“The last thing we want is an additional outbreak in addition to COVID-19,” she said.
The ADH outlines vaccine schedules based on each child's age. K-12 immunization requirements include vaccines such as the DTaP, Polio, MMR, Hep B, Meningococcal, Varicella and Hep A vaccines. Dillaha said that while all are important right now, some are especially important amidst COVID-19 concerns.
“The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella,” she said. “We’re concerned about measles because it’s airborne and much more infectious than COVID-19 with very serious repercussions and we don't want measles and COVID-19 at the same time.”
She said other vaccines protecting against respiratory illnesses are crucial.
“The DTaP vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis,” she said. “If people get that it will decrease their risk of pertussis and we know that it is circulating in Arkansas at this time so we can really make a difference for kids who might be exposed to COVID-19.”
She mentioned the flu shot is also of utmost importance for both children and adults this year.
“Children are very efficient spreaders of the flu so if they can get the vaccine to reduce the likelihood that they will get ill from the flu and spread it, that will be important for our communities,” she said.
Dillaha said families with concerns about the safety of going to get these vaccines should know that not getting them is the bigger concern.
“Not getting the vaccines is going to make things worse potentially,” she said. “Our healthcare communities are stretched thin, so we want to reduce that stress.”
She said these required vaccines are some of the safest pharmaceuticals out there.
“We want parents to have confidence in them and know the CDC monitors the safety of those vaccines as well as the FDA,” she said.
Dillaha also mentioned students who are ages seven and older can get vaccinated at a pharmacy which may be more convenient for many families.