As Nebraska moves into another school year, now is the perfect time to ensure that children are caught up on routine vaccinations.

Vaccines are crucial to protect children from preventable diseases, especially as in-person activities and learning are back in full swing, and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccine ordering dropped 14% in 2020-2021 compared to 2019.

“The decrease in childhood immunizations is an important health issue because there is an increased risk of outbreaks of previously controlled diseases, increased illness, absenteeism and subsequent increased demands on an already strained health care system,” said Dr. Josette Gordon-Simet, chief medical officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE). “Physicians remain concerned that children who are not adequately protected upon returning to school will contribute to the spread of germs.”

Even if a child has missed one or two years of routine vaccines, catching up is easy.

“The CDC publishes a catch-up immunization schedule for children and adolescents who start late or are more than one month behind their recommended immunizations,” said Gordon-Simet. “Your family physician, internist, pediatrician or advanced practice provider will provide guidance on the appropriate administration schedule.”

In addition to routine immunizations, flu shots and COVID-19 booster shots for those who are eligible are crucial to help protect children this school year.

“Flu vaccines are important to receive to prevent seasonal influenza infection,” said Gordon-Simet. “COVID-19 has not gone away, as evidenced by the presence of new variants. Booster vaccines are important to enhance your protection against COVID-19 because the immune response decreases after completing the primary series of vaccination.”

Annual well-child visits are the best way to ensure children are on schedule and to address any concerns parents may have.

“The decision to receive vaccinations is personal, especially for parents considering vaccination of their children and the potential side effects,” said Gordon-Simet. “I encourage anyone considering vaccinations for influenza, COVID-19 or other immunizations to communicate with their physician to better understand the benefits, risks and to obtain answers to any outstanding concerns.”

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