Hickory – With the school year finished and summer vacation season in mid-swing, it’s hard to think about fall being just a few months away. At the end of summer, students will return to school, leaving some parents scrambling to make sure their children have their required immunizations. Fortunately, parents can go ahead and schedule visits to get vaccinations out of the way before school starts. Before you go on summer vacation, consider checking with your child’s medical provider to ensure your child is caught up on immunizations.

Vaccinations may not be at the forefront of families’ minds in the busy summer season, but they protect children and families every day from diseases such as diphtheria, measles, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and more. Because vaccines prevent disease so well, some parents may not be familiar with some of the serious diseases they prevent; however, those diseases do still circulate. Within the last few years, mumps and pertussis cases have popped up in western North Carolina counties.

Children who are entering child care or school environments are more likely to come in contact with a vaccine-preventable disease, making vaccinations before entrance a critical step for parents to take. Not having required vaccinations can delay a child’s entry into child care or kindergarten, as vaccinations are required within the first 30 days of school. Rising seventh-graders must also have a dose of the Tdap vaccine, which covers tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, as well as one dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine prior to the start of the school year.

The goal is to provide children with immunity from more than a dozen potentially life-threatening diseases early in life, before they are exposed to germs for pertussis (whooping cough), polio, measles, chickenpox and more.

Despite the benefits of vaccines, they can be expensive for some families. North Carolina’s Vaccines for Children (VFC) program provides vaccines to children who are underinsured or whose parents or guardians may not be able to afford them. The free, state-supplied vaccines are provided to children who are Medicaid eligible, uninsured, American Indian or Alaska Native, or whose insurance will not cover the vaccines for various reasons. To find out if your child qualifies, ask your child’s doctor or call Catawba County Public Health at (828) 695-5800.

For more information on required vaccinations, go to www.catawbacountync.gov/county-services/public-health/service-areas/immunization-clinic/. To schedule an appointment for vaccinations at Catawba County Public Health, call (828) 695-5881.

Catawba County Public Health promotes and protects the health of all Catawba County residents through preventive services, innovative partnerships, and community health improvement initiatives. For more info., please call (828) 695-5800 or visit www.catawbacountync.gov/phealth.