It's that time of year again — back to school! Kids need sports physicals, well-check visits, and vaccinations.
Many school districts reported a dip in their vaccination rates during the pandemic. In the 2022-23 school year, Austin kindergarteners had vaccination rates of between 86% and 92% compared to 2018-19, when rates were between 94% and 96%.
A lot of children didn't come in for their annual well-check visits, said Elizabeth C. Knapp, MD Pediatrician and ARC Pediatrics Chief, in this recent article in the Austin American-Statesman. That started to improve in the last year, she added.
Are kids required to be vaccinated in Texas?
There are two key times when schools look at vaccination records: kindergarten and seventh grade. Kids who haven't completed the required vaccine schedule for that grade cannot attend class, with a few exceptions.
Children can get exemptions for medical reasons or for what is called "Reasons of Conscience." Kids with medical exemptions have their doctor sign an exemption form, which is good for one year, unless the child has a lifelong disease, which makes the exemption good for the rest of their school career.
"It's a very, very rare situation when a child should have a medical exemption," Dr. Knapp said.
In this article, many back-to-school questions are asked and answered, such as:
- Why do we vaccinate children? Vaccines help prevent diseases, such as measles, mumps, diphtheria, and polio. These diseases come with days or weeks of illness, horrible side effects, and lifelong complications or death.
- What happens if not enough kids are vaccinated? Any time vaccination rates are lower, the risk of illness goes up.
- How do you know which vaccines you need? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a schedule of which vaccines people get by age. The CDC also has a catch-up schedule for people who have never been vaccinated or are behind in their vaccines. This information is also available on the ARC website.
- What are possible side effects of a vaccine? Soreness, swelling, or redness at the vaccine site is normal, as is a fever within the first 24 hours. If a child has persistent fever; neurologic problems such as an inability to move the arm or leg, difficulty thinking; a shrill cry, or lethargy, they should go to the emergency room.
Think beyond vaccines at the well-check
"The annual checkup with your doctor is really important," Dr. Knapp said. Doctors notice things that parents might not, such as hernias, scoliosis, hearing, vision problems, and can screen for mental health problems. "A doctor has a window into a child's behavior that they don't always show parents," she added.
Schedule an appointment today
A well-check exam focuses on maintaining your child's health and is a time to discuss preventive care.
Schedule an appointment with an ARC Pediatrician today to get your child ready to go back to school! For your convenience, make an appointment with ARC MyChart, online, or by calling the clinic most convenient to you.