Doctors urge parents to get kids vaccinated before going back to school

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Amid the back-to-school shopping and planning for your student’s return to the classroom, it’s hard to check off everything in your to-do list. One thing doctors say is a must: vaccinations.

August marks National Immunization Awareness month, and that’s no surprise.

Doctors are serious about vaccinations, particularly because a recent trend for some parents to try to stretch out the period in which their children get shots. Doctors say that’s a non-starter. In fact, most believe that a vaccine should be as automatic as putting on a seatbelt in your car.

“Immunizing your kids and getting vaccines up to date is one of the most important things a parent can do to protect the health of your child,” said Dr. Banu Kumar, the Chief of Pediatric Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Michigan.

Without vaccines, the health of an entire community can slip. Kumar pointed to measles outbreaks across the U.S. in 2014. It’s a disease that was thought to be eradicated on U.S. soil, but nearly 700 cases popped up in hospitals across the country. Similar situations have developed with meningitis and whooping cough — diseases that are part of routine vaccination programs.

“If (parents) get to see those diseases they will understand,” said Dr. Kumar. “It is so important to get their kids vaccinated, to protect them.”

Delaying vaccines puts children at risk for harmful diseases. That’s why doctors have a schedule set that eliminates the risk, as well as, the possibility for confusion as future appointments about which vaccines are given and why. That schedule is set forth by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Prevention.

Dr. Kumar also noted that the flu season is rapidly approaching.

It’'s important for healthy children to get their flu vaccines because not only do they help protect the child who gets the vaccine, but they help protect children with congenital heart disease, immune problems or chronic disease from getting the flu. Children with these conditions, and those under the age of 6 months, cannot get the flu vaccine and could become dangerously ill if infected.

“So it is very important that children, or anyone above the age of six months, including all children and adults get flu vaccines,” said Dr. Kumar.

Influenza typically begins to pop up in local doctors offices, and hospitals toward the end of summer and fall. While it is rare, it is possible for people to die as a result of the flu — something which did happen in the metro Detroit area last year.

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