Scheduling pediatric medical and dental appointments is sometimes lost in the shuffle of summer camps, sports and vacation planning. But it’s important not to let them slip off of your radar.
Virginia requires all children entering daycare, public and private schools to give proof of vaccination before entering daycare, Kindergarten, 7th, and 12th grades unless they have a waiver or exemption.
Children who do not meet the vaccination requirements for school may not be able to start on time. You can visit the Virginia Department of Health’s “one-stop-shop” web resource at VDH.Virginia.gov/BackToSchool/ to find out which immunizations and healthcare services your child may need for school entrance and sports.
Virginia pediatric immunization rates dropped, but are rebounding
Immunizations prevent the spread of serious communicable diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles and more. Vaccine schedules are based on the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Family Physicians.
Most students entering school for the first time will receive the vaccines they need from their healthcare provider or local health department prior to school entry in kindergarten. Rising 7th graders and 12th graders will need additional vaccines.
Pediatric immunization rates on the first day of school, which reached as high as 98% in 2008, dropped sharply during the pandemic and have not yet returned to ideal levels.
But while we still need to increase immunization uptake to protect our children and those around them, the good news is that Virginia is starting to see a rebound, with nearly 90% of kindergartners meeting school immunization requirements for the 2022-2023 school year. And immunization rates on the first day of school among 7th and 12th graders also improved to 91% and 80%, respectively.
Catching up on missed vaccinations
When you call to schedule your child’s annual checkup, ask your provider which vaccines your child needs. If there are multiple doses of a missed vaccine, your provider will work with you to schedule these appropriately. If your child is missing any vaccines, be sure to ask your provider about the catch-up schedule. In addition, COVID vaccines are now approved for children as young as 6 months. You can learn more about COVID vaccines by talking with your child’s healthcare provider or local health department. There are resources available for Virginians who need vaccines. The Virginia Vaccines for Children Program ensures all children have access to routinely recommended free vaccines. If you have questions, call 1-800-568-1929.
Medical, dental, and emotional wellness
There are several areas of overall health that parents and guardians should be paying attention to, especially routine medical and dental checkups which are critical to your child’s overall health.
An annual physical evaluation assesses how your child is growing and developing which can confirm that they are on track or help identify areas that need attention. In some cases, physical exams may be required for student participation in activities or athletics.
Dental care is important too. Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease. Untreated cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing and learning. Your child should visit the dentist every six months for a cleaning and evaluation. And it’s never too early to get started – a child is ready for their first dental checkup at age 1.
If your family is insured through Medicaid, both children and adults are now covered for dental care in Virginia. If you have questions about this coverage, call the Cover Virginia Call Center at 833-5 CALL VA.
Especially coming out of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, overall mental health is another key element of a child’s health that needs attention. A 2021 study by Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission found mental health issues prevalent in Virginia middle and high school students.
Fifty percent of Virginia middle school and 65% of high school students reported anxiety or nervousness. And 39% of Virginia middle school and 53% of high school students reported they experience uncontrollable worry. Have an emotional wellness check conversation with your children to find out how they feel and if you have questions or need resources call or text 988 or talk to your healthcare provider.