The 2020-2021 school year will soon begin the way it ended in South Florida: online.
And while your child may be temporarily learning through a computer screen instead of in a classroom, that doesn’t mean you should delay a trip to the doctor.
All public and private schoolchildren from kindergarten through 12th grade in Florida still need to get the necessary vaccines required to attend school — even if they are learning online, according to the Florida Department of Health.
And yes, this includes students who plan to remain in virtual school once kids can return to campus masked up for socially distanced learning.
Miami-Dade and Broward Public Schools are reminding parents that they need to make sure their children’s immunization records are up-to-date, or that exception requirements have been met, now that the school year is starting again, as usual.
School officials say Florida also hasn’t issued any waivers on student immunization requirements because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. This means that if your child attends public or private school in Miami-Dade, Broward or the Keys, you are still required by state law to have your children’s immunization documents filed with their school.
Why do kids need to get vaccines if they are learning from their living rooms?
Because the vaccines help give children the immunization they need to “protect themselves and other children from potentially harmful and even fatal, vaccine-preventable diseases” such as measles and whooping cough, according to the Florida Department of Health.
Health officials across the country have noticed a decline in children vaccinations during the past few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, including in South Florida which already ranked poorly for student immunizations when compared to other counties in the state pre-pandemic.
“The less children are vaccinated and brought up to date on childhood immunizations, the greater risk they pose to themselves, their families and their communities,” the Florida Department of Health told the Miami Herald last month. “An outbreak of a vaccine preventable disease could have devastating effects on communities.”
Where to get free or low-cost vaccines for children?
▪ Families without medical insurance may be eligible to apply for Florida’s Vaccines for Children program.
The federal program helps children receive routine vaccines for free and is administered and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
For eligibility requirements and information on how to apply, visit http://www.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/immunization/vaccines-for-children/index.html.
▪ Miami-Dade County Public Schools has on its website a list of locations that are providing free or low-cast vaccines, including the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County, Federally Qualified Health Centers, University of Miami Pediatric Mobile Clinic and the Jessie Trice Community Health System. To see the list, visit http://www.dadeschools.net/
▪ Visit http://www.floridahealth.gov/all-county-locations.html to contact your local health department about what vaccine options they have available for children and teenagers.
▪ School officials are also encouraging parents to consider giving their child a flu shot for this upcoming influenza season as the healthcare system continues to grapple with the novel coronavirus.
To find a CVS Pharmacy, Publix, Walgreens, Walmart, Winn-Dixie or another location offering flu shots, visit http://www.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/prevention/flu-prevention/locate-a-flu-shot.html.