The historical standard of school beginning post-Labor Day is a thing of the past.
Rolling educational calendars and earlier start dates mean vaccine providers need to incorporate flexibility into their vaccine inventory plans to account for school start dates as early as mid-July.
The CDC provides annual recommendations for required vaccinations for public schools in the United States. Individual states own accountability for mandating vaccine requirements. The CDC website includes an interactive state vaccine requirement map outlining requirements and exemptions in each U.S. state and territory.
According to the CDC, none of the vaccines included on adult or child vaccine schedules, including vaccines required for school admission, are experiencing shortages or delays.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, childhood vaccination rates hit a 30-year low. In spring 2020, pediatric vaccination rates decreased 42 percent compared to previous years.
Pediatric vaccination rates have slowly rebounded, but there are still challenges. The vaccination rates for school-aged kids are still lagging. This poses a serious health risk as unvaccinated children are at a higher risk for contracting vaccine-preventable illnesses such as measles, mumps, rubella, polio, and pertussis.
Lower vaccination rates also reduce the likelihood of herd immunity, which puts immunocompromised people and those who cannot receive vaccination for allergenic or other health reasons at greater risk.
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There are steps health care providers can take to support widespread vaccination adoption.
- Fact-based education campaigns and community drives can reduce vaccine hesitancy. Educating people on the efficacy, safety, and importance of routine vaccination,especially when the message comes from a trusted health care provider, can help reduce hesitancy and drive up vaccination rates.
- Programs like Vaccines for Children (VFC) provide opportunities to deliver vaccines at no cost to patients if financial circumstances are preventing routine medical care. Providers should explain the program and its benefits to eligible participants to remove the financial barrier if it exists.
- Ensuring vaccines are available in-office at point-of-care will reduce the need for more office visits and increase adoption likelihood. School-aged children most often visit their primary care providers between mid-June and early August for back-to-school check-ups.
As always, it is important to ensure vaccines are stored and handled following the CDC’s Vaccine Storage and Handling Toolkit. Additional monitoring and reporting steps need to be considered if a clinic is a VFC site. VFC regulations are managed on a state-by-state basis.
Helmer Scientific manufactures vaccine refrigerators and freezers in a variety of sizes and configurations designed specifically to store refrigerated and frozen vaccines.
Helmer Vaccine Refrigerators are certified to the NSF/ANSI 456 Vaccine Storage Standard. This certification ensures Helmer equipment can maintain necessary storage temperature performance in real-world clinical settings and provide critical alarm and monitoring features.
As the beginning of school years approaches throughout the country, vaccine providers should check inventories, manage equipment, and prepare educational talking points all in an effort to increase vaccination rates in their communities and reduce the occurrences and intensity of vaccine-preventable diseases.