As students prepare for the upcoming academic year, health officials don't want families to forget about the back-to-school supplies not found in stores – immunizations.
Indiana requires numerous vaccines for students in grades K-12, including those for chickenpox, hepatitis A and B, measles, mumps, polio, tetanus and whooping cough, with specific requirements depending on age. The annual flu shot also is recommended.
Medical and religious objections are allowed.
Fort Wayne Community Schools usually begins the academic year with about 85% of students compliant, and it typically ends the year with 96% to 98% compliant, said Mary Hess, health and wellness services director. She noted it's difficult to reach 100% because students are always coming and going.
She said the coronavirus pandemic hasn't helped inoculation efforts because many people were uncomfortable visiting medical offices for vaccinations and other preventative care.
“We did as much as we could to catch up last year, but we find ourselves about 83% compliant at this time,” Hess said in a statement Monday. “We will continue to work with families of students who do not have the necessary vaccines.”
The situation isn't unique to the 30,000-student district.
Routine childhood vaccination rates declined during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly between March and May 2020, when many places were under stay-at-home orders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Doses administered between June and September 2020 approached pre-pandemic baseline levels, the agency found. But rates didn't increase to the level that would have been necessary to catch up children who didn't receive routine vaccinations on time, officials said.
“This lag in catch-up vaccination might pose a serious public health threat that would result in vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks, especially in schools that have reopened for in-person learning,” according to a CDC report dated June 11.
About one-third of Allen County students haven't received all their required shots, according to MDwise. Statewide, about one-fourth haven't, the nonprofit health maintenance organization said, citing data from the Indiana Department of Health.
To help Allen County children who are behind on their shots, MDwise, Super Shot and the state health department will host a free vaccination clinic Aug. 28 and 29 at Super Shot, 1515 Hobson Road, according to a news release.
Insurance isn't required, but that information must be given if children are covered by health insurance.
“It's important that as many Hoosier kids as possible get vaccinated against preventable diseases like measles, polio and HPV,” Jessica Cromer, president and CEO of MDwise, said in a statement. “We're hosting 'Back on Track' to help ensure Indiana communities and families are healthy.”
Along with protecting the inoculated students, the vaccines provide indirect protection to others, said Barb Rondot, an advanced practice registered nurse with Lutheran Health Physicians.
“Children who cannot receive some vaccines, such as children with immunodeficiencies or are not yet the appropriate age, are indirectly protected when there is high coverage around those children,” Rondot said in a statement.
Following the CDC's vaccine schedule as closely as possible also is important, she said.
The shots “are carefully timed to provide protection to children when they are most vulnerable to diseases, and when the vaccines will produce the strongest response from the child's immune system,” Rondot said.
At a glance
What: Back on Track children's shots event
When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 28 and noon to 3 p.m. Aug. 29
Where: Super Shot, 1515 Hobson Road
Who: MDwise, Super Shot, Indiana Department of Health and community partners
Register: www.mdwise.org/backontrack or 260-424-7468