CANTON, N.Y. (WWTI) — August is National Immunization Awareness Month, drawing attention to the importance of following through with recommended immunizations. Local health officials are urging that all children and adults stay up-to-date on these requirements.
National Immunization Awareness Month is held annually in August to coincide with back-to-school immunizations. Many schools in New York start the 2021 to 2022 academic year immediately following Labor Day in early September.
In New York, there is a list of immunizations all children are required to have prior to returning to school each fall. Depending on the age of the child, this includes diphtheria and tetanus, polio, hepatitis B, chickenpox, meningococcal conjugate, haemophilus influenzae type b conjugate, pneumococcal conjugate, and measles, mumps, and rubella vaccinations.
Most of these vaccines are required to be administered in the child’s early years, some coming in several doses. Parents and guardians of children are required to have these completed 14 days before the start of the school year.
St. Lawrence County Public Interim Public Health Director Jolene Munger shared how immunizations protect the safety of young children. She says, “Once the kids are back in school, they’re playing. Without the immunizations, if one of these diseases were to come into the school, a lot of them can spread very, very quickly.”
In light of recent COVID-19 spikes in New York and across the country, these required immunizations may serve as an additional measure of preventing a severe case of the coronavirus. “Having one illness along with COVID can make your symptoms just even worse,” Munger warned. “Our hope and goal with COVID is to get everybody—even if you do contract COVID, that you’ll have a mild case of it. And that’s what we’re aiming for with the vaccinations with COVID is to have milder symptoms.”
But the month does not only focus on children. Munger went on to urge all adults’ to receive recommended vaccines. This includes tetanus, measles varicella, and the hepatitis A vaccines. “The big thing is,” she adds, “Make sure that you are up-to-date on your tetanus. That is when you should be getting a booster every 10 years. So we want to keep awareness of the ones that are out there, especially hepatitis and the pneumococcal. Those are also important.”
Meanwhile, leaders in New York’s education system are calling for more general guidance to help schools reopen this fall. The New York Department of Education called on the state to release additional guidance, ahead of September.
State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa asked New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to provide new guidance after the Cuomo administration said that ending the COVID state of emergency meant they could not issue guidance. The letter from Rosa to Zucker is below:
Notwithstanding the position of the Executive Chamber that the Department of Health (DOH) will not be releasing guidance to assist schools with welcoming students back to safe and healthy learning environments in September, Commissioner of Education Betty A. Rosa has sent a letter asking Commissioner Howard Zucker to consider DOH’s statutory responsibilities as the state agency devoted to protecting the public health.
The Public Health Law provides that the Department of Health is charged with exercising control over and supervising the abatement of nuisances affecting or likely to affect public health as well as supervising and advising any local unit of government and the public health officials thereof within the state in the performance of their official duties. Currently, there is no greater nuisance affecting public health and safety than COVID-19. There is an urgent need for timely advice and supervision flowing from the State Department of Health to local and school officials as they navigate these uncertain times.
The circumstances enveloping the Executive Chamber this week should not prevent the Department of Health from the execution of its responsibilities to the public, as has been promised by the Governor’s office for months.
More information on recommended immunizations can be found on local public health websites and a full list of required immunizations for students in New York can be found on its Immunyze website.