Campbell said he also worries about other vaccinations, such as one for the human papillomavirus, or HPV, a virus that causes cancer often decades after infection. It’s not required by schools, but the CDC recommends it for preteens.
“We tend as a public to get scared of pandemics and outbreaks and fast-breaking COVID, but tens of thousands die every year from HPV-related cancers,” he said. “People don’t always see an urgency.”
He said flu shots also can be a hard sell, as they’re often not as protective, especially in years (like this one) where the strains covered by the shot are a mismatch for those circulating among people. But like the COVID-19 vaccine, having the shot often protects against severe disease. About 30% of Marylanders have gotten the flu vaccine.
While COVID-19 vaccinations are far higher, children have the lowest rates with 58% of those aged 5 to 17 fully inoculated. COVID and flu shots are not required by schools. In Maryland, students are required to have the MMR vaccine, as well as immunizations against chickenpox; polio; diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough; hepatitis B; and meningitis. Specific exemptions are required for any exemptions on medical or religious grounds.
For required vaccines, state health officials and school leaders already have notified local school superintendents and health officers that they need to begin preparing now for the next school year.
“To reduce the number of students that may be out of compliance at the start of the 2022-2023 school year, school officials should begin now to complete assessments of school immunization records and inform parents of children who may be out of compliance,” said an April 22 letter to the county education and health officials.
“This will allow parents maximum time for the parent to get their children up to date,” it said.
Tiffany Tate, who runs the nonprofit group Maryland Partnership for Prevention, has been working with Baltimore and other counties to offer students flu, COVID-19 and routine vaccinations. She said the pandemic has interrupted vaccinations of all kinds and health officials across the state have been setting up extra clinics.
“Typically at this time of year, we’d be talking about fall and flu season, but more are talking about routine vaccinations,” Tate said. “Some counties are booking for mid- to late summer to do back-to-school vaccines. Some want to get students now, before they leave for vacation.”
Tate said even vigilant parents have fallen behind on vaccinations schedules because of the pandemic. And now that summer is close, even with rising COVID-19 cases, “things feel good. so they aren’t worried about vaccines,” she said.
Tate said her organization will push ahead with clinics for elementary and middle school students, offering all of the vaccines. With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week authorizing COVID-19 booster vaccines for children ages 5 to 11, it will offer those, too.
“We’ll evolve and respond; we’ll fill in all the gaps,” she said. “People are so focused on COVID because it’s an immediate threat to health, but there are other threats.”©2022 The Baltimore Sun. Visit at baltimoresun.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.