#childsafety | Reopening Our Schools Town Hall: Immunizations and back-to-school

COLUMBIA- KOMU 8’s Emily Spain talked with Dr. Alexandra James, a pediatrician with MU Health Care, about recommendations for families trying to decide about how to approach the upcoming school year.

Dr. James discussed why it’s up to families to look at multiple factors from high-risk family members to social engagement needs when making the decision about whether to send children back to school in-person. 

She also talks about why it’s so important that children are up-to-date on their vaccinations before returning to school this year.

Read her answers below. 

Q: What are the current recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics about sending children back to school this year?

“The American Academy of Pediatrics does recommend if your child is able, and the schools are open, to go back to school in-person, due to the available social engagement…as well as the in-person learning that can occur, but definitely the American Academy of Pediatrics wants all families to be safe and healthy. And so, you really have to take your own family’s considerations into thought when you decide whether or not to send your child back in-person.” 

Q: Why is it even more important for children to have their vaccinations up-to-date this year?

“Vaccinations are our greatest public health effort in the history of our country. They protect children from a multitude of diseases that we do see, but luckily, not as much every day because we have these vaccines. So, unfortunately during the COVID pandemic for various reasons there were definitely a decline in how many children were vaccinated in our country. So, with that comes the risk that some of these diseases that we don’t typically see will have a rise. That includes things like measles, chicken pox, even causes of meningitis. So, because of that it’s really important that before kids go back to school and are together in the same building, that they make sure they’re up to date on their vaccinations to protect both themselves, their peers, their families, and anyone else in our community.”

Q: What steps can parents take to help prepare children for going back to school?

“The first is creating a good consistent schedule. The other thing is talking with our children. They’re amazing people and so, really explaining to them what’s going on, that we all have their best interests and their safety at heart. Also, realize that as parents we have our own anxieties and that’s very understandable in these really trying times. And then, also reaching out when we need that help to programs such as the MU  Bridge Program where children and families can get counseling and other services that they need.”

Q: What advice do you have from a medical standpoint about how parents should decide whether to send their child to school for in-person learning?

“That’s a great question and I would say that it takes an effort from multitude of people to decide what for our community is best. First and foremost, it’s your family and what that means to you in terms of are you able to have your child back in school, is that something feasible for your family? Is that safe? Do you have people in your household who are greatly at risk if they do get exposed to COVID? And what other dynamics in the community, for example, our caseload. And, I know that the Columbia Public Schools are looking really closely and watching really closely the number of cases in our community and are taking that into their guidelines for safety of whether children should return to school.”

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