Parents may need to start preparing for school this fall if their children have fallen behind on immunizations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services advises families to call their providers, make an appointment and receive any instructions that provider may have.
“Immunization rates have dropped sharply due to COVID-19, including in Alaska,” said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer. “If you’ve delayed having your child immunized, now is a good time to catch up on any missed vaccinations. There are vaccines available to prevent many serious illnesses, like measles, mumps and whooping cough. The best way to prevent these diseases and help keep your child healthy is to stay current on all required vaccinations.”
Alaska Administrative Code notes children must be immunized against certain diseases before entering a state public school. These include diphtheria, tetanus, polio, pertussis, measles, mumps, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, varicella and, for children younger than 12, rubella.
In the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, all the regular, normal guidelines surrounding immunizations will still be in place, according to Superintendent Karen Gaborik.
“There’s lots of notification that goes to families,” Gaborik said.
The district has to comply with state immunization guidelines, Gaborik noted, but the practice has been to do lots of outreach and inform families if they are out of compliance, then support them in getting immunized if they are.
“Families will be contacted by a nursing services staff before school begins in August to let families know if their child is non-compliant for immunizations,” wrote Lori Schneider, director of nursing services, in response to a News-Miner inquiry.
“When a family does not provide an updated record showing the immunizations were administered, nursing services staff will advise the family and school administration that the student is not compliant and recommend they not start school and/or be excluded from school until the immunizations have been administered and a medically verified immunization documents are provided,” Schneider wrote.
Before the end of this school year nursing services and the Fairbanks Public Health Center held three shot clinics at three elementary schools, according to Schneider.
“Nurses contacted families of students who were non-compliant or who were going to become non-compliant during the summer. We let them know what vaccines were required and let them know about the shot clinics. The District Communications Department got the information out to our families,” she wrote.
There has been a series of outdoor immunization clinics this summer as well.
Public Health Nurses have a regularly scheduled shot clinic every third Thursday in North Pole, Schneider noted, and they continue holding additional clinics in the Fairbanks community throughout the summer.
People can reach the Fairbanks Public Health Center at 452-1776.
Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/FDNMlocal