Pediatrician recommends flu and COVID vaccinations ahead of back-to-school season

MADISON, Wis. – SSM Health pediatrician Dr. Dan Beardmore is emphasizing the importance of childhood immunizations and why families should follow recommended immunization schedules. 

Dr. Beardmore said the time to get protected begins in the early days of a child’s educational endeavors.

“As kids enter their preschool or their kindergarten, we want to get them boosted against stuff they got when they were little to protect against measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, tetanus, whooping cough and other illnesses,” he said.

The early immunizations are condensed so it is quick and easy visit for the kindergarteners, he said. The next big set of vaccines comes at the age of 11 for the first meningitis prevention, and then tetanus and whooping cough boosters.

Dr. Beardmore said when children weren’t seeing their doctors as often during the height of COVID-19 lockdowns, getting caught up on shots wasn’t a priority.  The Wisconsin Department of Health Services noted earlier this year that rates for routine childhood immunizations have fallen during the pandemic.

“We have had a lot of kids come in this summer because their children are going to be returning to school and they’ve missed their check-ups for vaccines for a few years,” he said. “If you think that your child hasn’t been in for a while, we’ll make sure that if there’s any catch-up needed we can get it done. “

Dr. Beardmore recommends using online programs like MyChart to make sure children are caught up on immunizations.

As for shots that typically aren’t required for school districts, Dr. Beardmore said there are additional shots he recommends as well: the flu and COVID-19 vaccines.

“I really do think it’s a good idea for kids to be coming in and getting those done,” he said. “We want to try to keep our kids in school and dampen the spread of this virus as fast as we can, and it really is a very safe vaccine.”

Dr. Beardmore recognized that some parents could be concerned about the number of immunizations a child could be getting when adding the flu and COVID-19 shots as well. 

“I can understand why the initial uptake to getting your kids these vaccines has been low,” he said. “At the beginning, we said, thankfully, this virus didn’t affect kids all that badly.”

Dr. Beardmore went on the clarify that as the virus continues to mutate over time, the concern for children grows, which is why he urges parents to get their children vaccinated.

“These new variants are much more contagious and there are many more kids catching it. It’s been a mild viral illness in most cases,” he said, stressing the vaccine is “very, very safe.”

“Even if not a perfect vaccine, what parent wouldn’t want to reduce the likelihood of your kid catching any cold and having to miss school?” he said.

Dr. Beardmore said the same goes for situations where a child has already been positive for COVID-19. Even if a child has built up antibodies for the virus, we are unable to determine what new variants could do, which is another reason to get a shot. 

“We would love to protect as best we can, especially since we know these vaccines are extremely safe,” he said.

More information and data surrounding the percentages of public school students who met the minimum immunization requirements are available on the Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ website.