DHHS urges child immunization updates and Nebraskans to get flu vaccine when available

Nebraska City News-Press

August is National Immunization Awareness Month and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is urging Nebraska families to catch up on childhood immunizations, and all Nebraskans to plan on getting flu vaccine this fall.

While immunizations may have been postponed in the initial stage of the coronavirus pandemic, they play an essential role in protecting infants and children from serious diseases. During the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend maintaining immunization schedules for infants, children and adolescents through age 18, and pregnant women.

Regardless of whether children attend school in-person for the coming year, parents are encouraged to schedule well-child visits and ensure children and youth are up-to-date on immunizations.

“The pandemic understandably impacted childhood immunizations rates, but this is the moment to catch up," said Dr. Gary Anthone, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for DHHS. “Ensuring children get all their immunizations is one of the most effective ways to protect them from serious diseases that are easily spread and often require medical care."

Compared to rates from January to June 2019, Nebraska immunizations for the same time frame in 2020 are down almost 6% for children under 2, 27% percent for children age 2-7 and 30% for youth age 7-17.

In addition, all Nebraskans are encouraged to get flu vaccine this year to help limit the spread of respiratory illnesses, lower the need for medical visits and hospitalizations, and reduce strain on the health care system.

Dr. Anthone said, “Our medical community will continue to be challenged in the coming year. Making sure childhood immunizations are up-to-date and getting the flu vaccine are two additional ways Nebraskans can help ensure they stay well, protect their families, and reduce the potential burden on health care providers in the midst of the pandemic. It's essential preventive care."

The CDC recommends flu vaccine for everyone age 6 months and older, especially those at high risk for influenza complications, including infants and young children, children with neurologic conditions, pregnant women, adults age 65 and older, and those with certain underlying medical conditions.

The required and recommended vaccines for children and adolescents include:

Elementary - state law requires children enrolling in kindergarten or first grade (depending on their school district's entering grade) and transfer students have proof of receiving the following vaccinations:

three doses of hepatitis B vaccine

three doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine (DTaP)

three doses of poliovirus vaccine (IPV)

two doses of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR)

two doses of varicella (chickenpox) vaccine

Middle School/Junior High through High School - Youth entering seventh grade and transfer students must have all of the above vaccinations, as well as a Tdap pertussis booster. In addition, the CDC recommends one dose of meningococcal vaccine at age 11 or 12, and two doses of human papillomavirus vaccine, which prevents various cancers. A second dose of meningococcal vaccine is recommended at age 16.

College – The CDC recommends a meningococcal vaccine for first-year college students, particularly those living in residence halls, and those who may not have received their second dose at age 16. The vaccine helps prevent bacterial meningitis among other serious illnesses.

Child Care/Pre-K - Children enrolled in licensed child care and school-based pre-K programs also need to be up-to-date with age-appropriate immunizations.

DHHS operates the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, which provides vaccines to eligible uninsured, underinsured, American Indian, and Medicaid-enrolled children at no cost or low cost at various providers throughout the state. More information on the program is available online at http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/VFC-Program.aspx.

Parents can access immunization records online if a child's health care provider participates in the Nebraska State Immunization Information System at https://nesiis-dhhs-prod.ne.gov/prd_ir/public/clientSearch.do?language=en .

More vaccination information is available on the DHHS Immunization Program website at http://www.dhhs.ne.gov/immunizations or by calling (402) 471-6423.