As school begins across West Virginia, health experts say getting children their routine vaccinations is a “back-to-school” must.
Kanawha-Charleston Health Officer Dr. Steven Eshenaur said countless West Virginia children have missed their annual vaccinations during the global pandemic. It is what the World Health Organization calls a “global child health crisis.”
“Many routine immunizations including tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella. Millions of children worldwide did not receive those,” Eshenaur said. “Overall immunization rates are down in the U.S. over the past couple of years compared to what our traditional rates were in 2019 and earlier.”
Eshenaur said that history proves vaccines prevent childhood deaths. With a recent case of polio discovered in New York City, he said a possible outbreak could be underway.
“As New York has been testing their sewage water, they are finding polio virus in the sewage,” Eshenaur said. “That is scary given that only approximately one out of 1,000 individuals that contract polio actually come down with a full neurological disease and result in paralysis.”
Eshenaur said needed protection against meningitis looms large, since the disease is still prevalent despite having a relatively aggressive immunization program.
“We still require boosters, especially for many public colleges when large groups of young individuals get together,” Eshenaur said. “That disease is very infectious and can easily spread throughout the population.”
Eshenaur said there are vaccination schedules for children from birth to college.
“Anyone that is entering public school for the first time has quite the group of vaccines that they will need,” Eshenaur said. “Seventh and twelfth graders also have vaccines dependent upon what their history has been with their vaccinations.”
He asks parents to check with their family physician or local health department.
“Anytime anyone has a question of the needs of what vaccines their child might require, they can either follow up with their pediatrician or go to their local health department,” Eshanuer said. “That’s where their full immunization records can be reviewed and any deficiencies be immediately addressed.”