Back to school time can be stressful for kids and parents, and dangerous preventable diseases like measles, mumps, and pertussis, shouldn’t add to that stress. Vaccines protect those of all age groups from these illness but are especially important for school-aged youth. California has already experienced five measles outbreaks this year, all of which resulted in children and youth becoming infected with measles. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that measles outbreaks across the country have put the 2000 declaration of measles elimination in the U.S. at risk. Vaccines protect against diseases like measles by using tiny amounts of antigens to help a child’s immune system recognize a disease and go to work on preventing it.
In this way, the child can get the necessary antibodies for their immune system to fight off disease without the danger and discomfort of actually having the disease. Side effects of vaccines are generally minimal and include swelling or soreness at the injection site and sometimes fever. Protection from some childhood vaccines, like chickenpox and measles, mumps, and rubella, can wear off as a child gets older. Older children and teens need to be protected through booster shots and for Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause certain types of cancers.
High vaccination levels stops disease outbreaks
Protecting your child is not the only reason to follow the California Department of Public Health and the CDC recommended vaccine schedule for your children. Vaccines protect not just the individual but have a positive effect on the community. Some people cannot be vaccinated – like infants or those with compromised immune systems – and they rely on those that can be to keep them safe. When vaccination levels in the community are high, it stops outbreaks of preventable infectious diseases while keeping those most vulnerable safe in their communities. This phenomenon is known as herd immunity.
A 2015 California law requires all children and youth attending private or public schools to receive vaccines that prevent ten diseases by immunization. Mandatory vaccination helps create herd immunity to ensure that immunity levels remain high to protect all state residents, including other children and youth who attend school but cannot be vaccinated. Because of the importance of herd immunity, only limited medical exceptions are allowed to California’s vaccination requirement.
California’s Medi-Cal covers vaccines at no charge
In California, almost all children and youth have access to free vaccinations. Vaccinations are considered a preventive service that must be covered at no charge for children and youth enrolled in private health plans in the state, including Covered California plans. For low-income children and youth enrolled in Medi-Cal, as a result, Medi-Cal must provide all necessary vaccinations for free. This is required by the Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) provision in the federal Medicaid Act, which requires Medi-Cal to provide medically necessary preventive services to enrollees under age 21.
Covered vaccinations include all of those required for school attendance in California. Medi-Cal provider should make sure that enrolled children receive vaccines according to the schedule set by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Providers should check at every health care visit to see if the child’s immunizations are up-to-date, and administer any needed vaccinations or arrange for the child to receive them as soon as possible.
As California’s children and youth head back to school this fall, ensuring they have received their vaccinations is critical , not only keep them safe and protect them from serious illnesses, but also to protect their classmates, their school, their community, and our whole state.