Dr. Rachel Young, Guest Writer

Typical signs of the end of summer are department stores setting up their displays of school supplies, the search for best-selling children’s shoes, and annual checkups at the pediatrician. When you’re at your child’s routine doctor’s appointment this year, be sure to catch them up on their shots.

As an osteopathic family physician, I talk to families every day about how to protect their children from the spread of disease, and every day I say the same thing: get vaccinated.

Vaccines protect our children and teens from 16 different diseases before they turn 18, and routine vaccinations are estimated to prevent 419 million illnesses and 8 million hospitalizations in children born between 1994 and 2018.

One of the most common questions asked by parents is: “Why should I use the recommended vaccination schedule?”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a recommended schedule for childhood vaccinations. The calendar is in place to help ensure communities stay ahead of outbreaks. Children who do not follow the recommended schedule are at higher risk of developing illnesses during the time injections are delayed. If you are behind schedule, your doctor will give you information on how best to catch up before school so you can protect your child’s class.

Another question I often hear is, “Aren’t most vaccine-preventable diseases rare anyway?”

When many parents think of vaccine-preventable diseases, they think of diseases like polio and measles – diseases from our “past”. Diseases like these are rare now thanks to vaccines. Unfortunately, these diseases are not that far behind us, and the United States recently confirmed the first case of poliomyelitis in nearly a decade. Additionally, diseases like chickenpox and whooping cough are still common in the United States and can also be prevented with vaccines.

As rare as a disease may seem, spread is possible when there are unvaccinated people in a community.

As a doctor, my main goal is to keep my patients healthy. One of the easiest ways to do this, thanks to decades of research and work by the medical community, is through vaccines. But I can’t keep my patients healthy on my own. As a community, we must work together to protect our most vulnerable.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all learned that working together is the best way to overcome difficulties. Much like the COVID-19 vaccine, routine childhood vaccinations on the CDC’s recommended schedule benefit the community by keeping disease at bay. When you get your child vaccinated, you also pay attention to their classmates and teacher.

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We all want our children to have as normal a school year as possible after more than two years of virtual and hybrid lessons, but the only way to achieve this is to have children vaccinated before day one. It is up to us as parents to do what is best for our children. For me, it’s about getting them vaccinated.

As a doctor, but also as a mother, my anxiety is relieved knowing that when our children start school on the first day of this year, they will be completely prepared with their new backpack, trainers and vaccines .

Dr Rachel Young is an Osteopathic Family Physician at McLaren Greater Lansing.