Back-to-school preparations are in full-swing as schools and after-care providers re-open for in-person learning and care. It’s an important time for parents to work with their child’s pediatrician to catch-up on routine wellness visits and immunizations to protect against illness and disease. For Maryland parents getting their students ready, this new school year involves many questions about ensuring the health and safety of their children amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
HealthCare Access Maryland (HCAM) turned to Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, for answers to parents’ frequently asked questions on back-to-school. A Johns Hopkins trained pediatrician, Dr. Dzirasa has served as Commissioner of Health since March 2019.
Why is it important to vaccinate your children? What are the benefits of vaccination for children?
Vaccines are a safe and effective way to help protect your children from illness by strengthening their body’s ability to respond against diseases. Many vaccines protect against illnesses commonly found in children, including Whooping Cough (Pertussis), Chicken Pox (Varicella), Measles and Influenza (“Flu”). Vaccines help slow / stop the spread of these diseases to those who are both in close contact with your children and, especially, to seniors and others who are vulnerable due to underlying medical conditions.
It is always better to prevent a disease from ever happening than to treat it after it occurs.
What should I do if my child has missed a routine pediatrician visit in the past year?
If your child missed a routine well-child or pediatrician visit as a result of closures due to COVID-19, it is important to get back on track as soon as possible. Contact your healthcare provider, who can help you schedule the visit, which may be in-person or through tele-health depending upon the provider and needs of the visit.
If you currently do not have medical insurance, there are a number of healthcare offices who offer free or “sliding scale” low-cost vaccinations including the Baltimore City Health Department’s T.I.K.E. Clinic (Call 410-396-4454 or visit https://health.baltimorecity.gov/programs/immunizations).
If you need to enroll in insurance coverage for your children and family, HealthCare Access Maryland can help. Call 410-500-4710 to get started.
What vaccinations are required for my child to attend a public school in Maryland? Where can I find a schedule of requirements?
Parents with children enrolling in Maryland pre-school programs or schools can find immunization requirements for the 2021-2022 academic year at:
How can parents help protect their young children under the age of 12 who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19?
Per CDC guidelines, updated July 2, 2021 – parents are role models who can teach and practice good prevention. These practices to protect against the spread of COVID-19 include: (1) frequent hand washing; (2) avoid close contact (stay at least 6 ft away) from others who don’t live in the same household and from those who are sick (e.g.; coughing & sneezing); (3) limit face-to-face playtime especially with other children outside the household and childcare / school; (4) postpone visits or trips to visit grandparents and other older family members especially those with underlying medical conditions; and, (5) wear a mask in indoor public places.
Learn more at Families & Children | CDC.
Heading back-to-school is an exciting time of year for students and their families. Staying up-to-date on immunizations is one of the best ways to ensure a healthy and safe school year for your student, school, and community. If you have additional questions about what vaccinations your child needs to return to school this fall, check-in with your family pediatrician.