Don’t Forget Vaccinations Are Needed for Back to School

April 14, 2021

Getting kids back in school is important for their emotional, intellectual, and social well-being. Doing that safely means getting your kids to their pediatrician to make sure they are up to date on their required vaccinations.

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Vaccinations Matter

Vaccinations are essential services that protect not only the children being vaccinated, but others in their communities. Understandably, routine well-child visits, which usually include vaccinations, dropped dramatically during the early days of the pandemic.

Getting your child vaccinated between birth and six years protects them from 14 serious diseases, including measles, mumps, chickenpox, rotavirus, and polio. Vaccinating your child also helps protect your friends, family, and neighbors who cannot get vaccinated themselves because they are too young or have certain health problems.

Children are most vulnerable when they are born, and they depend on their parents to make the right choices to protect them. It is critical to stick to the vaccination schedule provided by your child’s doctor. No matter the age, preventing dangerous diseases outweighs any possible side effects such as slight pain, swelling, or low-grade fever that your child may experience. These are important steps toward building your child’s immune system during their critical developmental stages.

Routine vaccinations are also needed during the adolescent years. The CDC recommends four vaccines for almost all children ages 11-12: 

  • Meningococcal vaccine protects against meningococcal diseases, which are rare but spread by sharing food and drinks or kissing.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine offers strong protection against HPV, which can cause genital warts, and is associated with cervical cancer in women and other types of cancers in both men and women.
  • The collective Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccine, a booster for the children’s DTaP vaccine, is necessary for older children because the effectiveness of the first vaccine wears off over time.
  • Annual influenza (flu) shots are recommended by doctors for all children six months and older, because the flu virus changes rapidly.

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It’s the Law

Learning institutions from day care through college require immunizations. Anywhere children are together, there is a risk of infection for those who are not immunized or who may have compromised immune systems.

The state of California has an immunization law that requires children to have certain vaccinations to attend public and private elementary and secondary schools, childcare centers, family day care homes, nursery schools, day nurseries, and pre-kindergarten centers. Those facilities are required to enforce the law and keep immunization records.

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COVID-19 Vaccines

Children 12 and older are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Following clinical trials by Pfizer, the vaccine was determined to be safe and effective at preventing infection. The company is also starting trials on infants and young children. Evidence suggests that children can carry the virus just like adults and spread it to others. As of July, a majority of COVID-19 infections in the United States come from the Delta Variant, which is highly contagious and considered more dangerous than older strains.

There is a possibility that annual doses may be necessary to protect children from COVID-19, much like the flu vaccine. Parents are encouraged to consider the COVID-19 vaccination to safeguard their children’s health as they return to school in the fall.

Free Vaccinations at AltaMed

We encourage you to follow the immunizations schedule into adolescence, so your children are protected during every stage of their life. Here at AltaMed, all the vaccinations the CDC recommends are available free of cost! We provide childhood, adolescent, and HPV immunizations for patients from birth to 17 years old.

It’s more important than ever to stay safe and healthy. Call us at (888) 499-9303 to schedule an appointment with your provider to stay on track of your child’s immunization timeline.

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.

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Tips for Making Back to School Safer

March 25, 2021

Back-to-school preparations usually take place in the late summer or early fall. But across Southern California, preparing kids for in-person learning starts now.

Los Angeles County elementary schools have been eligible to open since Feb. 16. Middle and high schools could open later this month. Most school districts in Orange County are offering at least a hybrid version of in-person and distance learning with some providing all in-person learning at the elementary level.

After nearly a year of distance learning, some parents are eager to get their kids back into school while others are understandably hesitant. Regardless of where you stand, AltaMed has some resources for returning safely. While we’re all optimistic about the virus being under control, these planned openings could change depending on the number of infections.

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COVID-19 in Kids

It’s still unclear how many children have been infected with COVID-19 and how dangerous it is because testing has been focused on adults and those at risk for severe illnesses. There is evidence to suggest children can carry the virus just like adults and spread it to others.

It’s important to make sure kids have good habits to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. That means reinforcing everyday actions like:

  • Washing hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds

  • Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth when you’re around people

  • Avoiding close contact with others, especially those who are sick

  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the crook of an arm

If your children already practice this at home, they should have no problem doing this at school.

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Deciding if Kids Should Go Back

Schools play an important role in supporting children’s academic, emotional, social, and physical health. But the benefits of attending in-person should be weighed against the risks to the children and those at home. If a household member is at increased risk for severe illness, everyone in the house, including school-aged children, should act as if they are at increased risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a tool that can help parents and guardians make an informed decision about whether or not to send their children back for in-person learning. There are checklists for assessing:

  • Household risk

  • A school’s plan for in-person learning

  • Your capacity to continue at-home learning

  • School-based services

Local Recommendations in LA and Orange County

Each school is responsible for providing a safe learning environment. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health created a detailed framework for schools to follow before letting students back in the classroom.

Parents can also visit LA County department’s website to see which schools have been approved to open, see case rates by school district, and review the county’s reopening requirements. Knowing these steps can provide some peace of mind.

The Orange County Health Care Agency has a page dedicated to COVID-19 information including guidance for school administrators and information for schools and youth sports. Several school districts in the county have tracking apps on their websites where parents can see the case counts for students, staff, and vendors.&

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A New Routine

Some things won’t change if you decide to send your children back to school. You will want to make sure the school has your current contact information in case of an emergency, and kids need to be current on all their vaccinations.

But there will also be some new things to consider. You should:

  • Check children for signs of illness every day, especially a fever over 100.4, cough, diarrhea, vomiting, or body aches.

  • Be aware of whom children come in contact with, in case someone tests positive for COVID-19.

  • Learn whom to contact at the school if your child has been exposed.

  • Know the local COVID-19 testing sites should your child show symptoms.

  • Review and practice proper hand-washing techniques at home and explain why they’re important.

  • Teach your child the importance of social distancing at school.

  • Develop daily routines of what to pack for school (sanitizer, extra masks, a water bottle) and what to do when they get home (washing hands and masks immediately).

After school, you’ll also want to ask questions that go deeper than, “How was your day?” Ask if everyone was in class and wearing their masks, including teachers and staff, and if anyone talked to them about staying safe and practicing good habits. Find out if anyone coughed a lot or had to leave the classroom or school. It’s important to be aware of what is happening in their environment at school because it could affect your environment at home.

Coping with Change

AltaMed is available to help you with resources for dealing with COVID-19, including vaccines when they become available. We lso provide counseling services to help navigate the stress children may be coping with as they return to school.

Learn how to get started with AltaMed or call us at (888) 499-9303.

What You Need to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine

December 17, 2020

As part of the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution, health care workers and people at the highest risk of complications from the disease will begin receiving the vaccine. This is due to an incredible effort by pharmaceutical companies and the Food and Drug Administration to ensure the vaccine is safe and effective in protecting adults against COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working closely with state and local health departments and other partners to develop plans to get the vaccine out. Other vaccines are in the approval process, so there is not just one COVID-19 vaccine.

What was the COVID-19 vaccine approval process?

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Many thousands of patients were given the COVID-19 vaccine in clinical trials. These trials are closely monitored research programs conducted with volunteers to see if a new drug or medical treatment is effective. The FDA approved the current vaccines because the research findings in the COVID-19 vaccine trials were proven to have minimal side effects and be highly effective in preventing COVID-19 in adults.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

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Vaccines approved by the FDA have been tested in more than 40 thousand volunteers. Side-effects were very mild and similar to the flu vaccine. The FDA is working with the health care community to monitor closely the reaction of those who have been vaccinated. With the information that we have currently, the vaccines have been evaluated as safe and can start protecting us and our community against COVID-19.

When can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Currently there is a limited supply available of the vaccines, and the first doses will go to health care workers and those with the most vulnerable immune systems. It will then be rolled out to different portions of the population in a fair, ethical, and transparent way. AltaMed is working closely with state and local health officials to ensure our patients have access to the vaccines as soon as possible.

How many shots will I need for the COVID-19 vaccine?

Most COVID-19 vaccines available in the first phase require a “booster” shot, or second shot, to get the entire benefit.

How much will it cost?

We don’t anticipate our AltaMed patients will need to pay for the vaccine. Administration of the vaccine may be charged to your health plan.

Where do I go to get the vaccine?

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Once the vaccine is more widely available, AltaMed will offer the vaccine to those who meet the priority criteria during each phase of the distribution process.

Will the vaccines give you COVID-19?

None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States use the live virus that causes COVID-19. Any response to the vaccine is a sign that the body is building immunity and learning how to fight the virus. It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination, so it is possible that a person who was recently immunized could still get sick with COVID-19.

Do I need to get vaccinated if I have already had COVID-19?

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Re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, so people may be advised to get vaccinated even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before.
The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long.
We won’t know how long immunity produced by vaccination lasts until we have more data on how well it works.

How soon after getting vaccinated can I stop wearing a mask and staying physically distant?

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There is not enough information currently available to say if or when CDC will stop recommending that people wear masks and avoid close contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before making that decision.

AltaMed is Here for You

AltaMed doctors recommend getting the vaccine as soon as it becomes available to protect you and your family from getting sick. Getting vaccinated is one of many steps you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Protection from COVID-19 is critically important because for many people, it can cause severe illness or death.

Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed.

Even after there has been widespread vaccination, for a while longer, we’ll still need to:

  • Wear a face covering
  • Wash our hands frequently
  • Maintain physical distance

As the situation changes, AltaMed will keep you informed.

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.