Special to Iredell Free News

RALEIGH — As children across North Carolina head back to school this month, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reminds families that vaccinations are an important part of back-to-school success and overall health and well-being.

“Following CDC recommendations to control the spread of all vaccine-preventable diseases is an essential piece of both child and family well-being,” said Dr. Zack Moore, state epidemiologist. “NCDHHS is helping health care providers, parents and guardians take this essential step to protect children’s health in school and at home.”

Vaccine-preventable diseases, such as chicken pox, meningitis, measles, pertussis (whooping cough) and others are still seen across North Carolina. Keeping children up to date on vaccinations is the best way to keep them healthy and reduce unnecessary absences from school.

Children who are uninsured can still be vaccinated at low or no cost through the Vaccines for Children program, which offers free vaccines to children through 19 years of age.

“Vaccines are one of the most cost-effective and successful means available for preventing disease and death,” said Steven Gunn and Karin Szymanski, co-chairs of North Carolina Immunization Coalition. “They help protect vaccinated individuals and our entire community by reducing and preventing the spread of infectious diseases.”

Teens also face unique risks related to communicable diseases.

“As children move into their preteen and teen years, they become more susceptible to certain diseases, making it especially important to stay current with immunizations. At the same time, preteens and teens tend to have fewer visits to their doctor’s office, increasing the chance that they are not up to date,” said Dr. Dimitrios Hondros, president of the N.C. Academy of Family Physicians. “This decrease in immunizations accelerated among adolescents during the pandemic, when stay-at-home orders went into effect.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes August as National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). This annual observance highlights the importance of getting recommended vaccines throughout your life. Whether children are homeschooled or attend a public, private, charter or religious school, state laws require they stay up to date for certain vaccinations based on their age, as recommended by the CDC.

Gov. Roy Cooper proclaimed August as Immunization Awareness Month in North Carolina. Alongside the proclamation, the NCDHHS is partnering with health care providers and stakeholders in a statewide awareness campaign to help ensure school-age children are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. ”

NCDHHS encourages all parents to talk with their child’s healthcare provider about recommended vaccinations. During that same visit, parents can talk with their physician about the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine for their children ages 6 months and older. Many pediatricians and family practitioners will provide the COVID-19 vaccine for all eligible family members, as well as teens, during that same visit. Visit MySpot.nc.gov for more information about COVID-19 vaccines.

The CDC has more information and resources for parents and guardians:

♦ List of all vaccines required for school attendance, from kindergarten through 12th grade
♦ CDC’s immunization catch up schedule
♦ Additional information on vaccine-preventable diseases and immunizations for North Carolina families available at immunize.nc.gov/family