A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Patty Swiney: Immunizations remain important part of back-to-school routine; talk to your doctor

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditEmail this to someone

One of the toughest things a parent will do is send their child to college. I have done it twice and still find myself worrying: Are they eating enough? Meeting new friends? Finding time to study?

Fortunately, parents today have much less to stress about when it comes to their children’s health. Thanks to modern medicine and immunizations, we no longer live in fear of many serious illnesses that once posed massive threats.

August is National Immunizations Awareness Month—a reminder of the important role immunizations play in keeping children healthy as they return to the classroom. Whether your child is headed to elementary school or college, updating their immunizations is the best way to protect their health and set them up for a successful year.

In schools, an isolated illness can quickly become a widespread outbreak. Beyond the negative impact on students’ health, outbreaks mean missed academic time, missed work for parents and unforeseen medical costs. Thankfully, many outbreaks can be avoided with a trip to the doctor before the first day of school.

Patty Swiney

Outbreak prevention requires a schoolwide— and communitywide—commitment from parents and families. When 75 to 95 percent of students are properly immunized against a disease, the population attains “community immunity.”

Community immunity ensures enough people are properly immunized to break the transmission chain of a contagious disease and prevent an outbreak. The more people who are immunized, the less opportunity there is for an illness to spread. Community immunity is critical to the health and safety of children who cannot receive vaccines because they are immunocompromised or suffer from serious illnesses like cancer.

Bacterial meningitis is one immunization preventable disease that can spread quickly among student populations. The disease infects the brain and can lead to loss of limbs, memory loss, seizures and even death. In recent years, more than 100 students have died from bacterial meningitis contracted on college campuses.

This summer, Kentucky enacted a new policy to ensure young adults are properly protected against meningitis. Under the regulation, which goes into effect July 1, 2018, students will receive a second dose of the meningococcal conjugate immunization, which protects against the A, C, W and Y meningitis strains, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The regulation also adds the meningitis B immunization to the state’s list of recommended immunizations. The B strain accounts for nearly half of all bacterial meningitis cases, and outbreaks of meningitis B on are rising on college campuses, so it is critical that students receive both the conjugate and meningitis B immunizations.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health recommends a number of other immunizations for children and young adults, including measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap); and human papillomavirus (HPV).

We don’t need to guess what a world without immunizations would look like because we already know. In the not so distant past, illnesses such as polio, smallpox, influenza, whooping cough and tetanus threatened entire populations. Immunizations, and immunizations alone, have drastically reduced the rates of these diseases, and in some cases, have made them nearly obsolete.

Just like seatbelts and car seats, immunizations are a scientifically proven method of protection — and they are vital to minimizing the risk of outbreaks at schools in our state. Talk with your physician, and ensure your children’s immunizations are current.

It’s the most important thing you can do to prepare them for school.

Patty Swiney, MD, is a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians and past president of the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditEmail this to someone

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment