Carroll County is making it easy for public school students to get their flu shots this year, but parents need to act quickly if they haven’t already.
While the flu vaccination clinics — a collaborative effort of the Carroll County Health Department, the Carroll County Public Schools, and the Maryland Partnership for Prevention — will not be held until later this month, parents must turn in flu vaccination consent forms, or complete the forms online, no later than this Friday, Oct. 12, in order for their children to participate. The clinics will take place between Oct. 22 and Oct 25.
There are a number of reasons parents should have their children get a flu shot at school, and a flu shot in general.
For one thing, even if parents haven’t received a flu shot in a number of years and haven’t gotten the flu, it’s important to remember that children aren’t adults and their immune systems are not fully developed until later teenage years.
The underdeveloped immune system, particularly in younger children, puts them at a greater risk of contracting the flu because their bodies cannot properly deal with the infections in the earliest stages.
Furthermore, it is no secret that children are exposed to more germs, in part because not all children have developed proper hygiene habits like washing their hands before meals, or sneezing into their arm or a tissue. Because of this, it’s far easier for the flu to spread in schools.
Remember, although “the flu” is sometimes used to describe symptoms similar to a common cold like a stuffy nose or a sore throat, it’s more than that — it is a highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease, especially for children and older adults. The flu can keep a child sick in bed for a week or more with a fever, cough and body aches. It can also lead to complications like pneumonia and dehydration.
During last flu season, 181 children died nationwide from the flu, the highest number ever reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 80 percent of those fatal cases occurred in children who did not receive a flu shot.
While a flu shot does not guarantee your child won’t get the flu — studies show the vaccine to be about 60 percent effective — it will make symptoms more tolerable if he or she does catch the influenza virus, and prevent against hospitalization and death related to flu symptoms.
It’s also possible that your child can catch the flu and not get sick or only demonstrate mild symptoms. But he or she could still pass the virus on to others who are more susceptible, such as younger siblings, grandparents, or other relatives, all of whom they are likely to be spending more time around in the coming months as the holidays approach. Even passing it onto their friends means they could continue passing it on to family members.
Getting vaccinated can protect the people around you, according to the CDC, including those more vunerable to serious flu illness.
Beyond these reasons, another reason to fill out the consent forms and have your child vaccinated at school is that it is more convenient. Parents don’t have to take time off work or schedule an appointment to get their child or multiple children vaccinated.
Children may also be more receptive to getting a shot in school when their other friends are doing the same, rather than in a doctor’s office or pharmacy. “This is one time when peer pressure can be a good thing. Students see peers get their shot and a Band Aid and they want to follow suit,” said Maria Carr, Supervisor of the Carroll County Health Department’s Maternal Child Health Program, which includes child vaccinations. “Maryland Partnership for Prevention vaccinators are specially trained to work with children who are afraid of needles. It is a very positive process.”
Parents can fill out consent forms online at https://immunizemaryland.org/school-clinic-consent-form or get a paper consent from the school nurse. There is no co-pay or deductible. Students may get a flu shot regardless of whether they have health insurance, although students with insurance will need to provide insurance information.
If students and parents miss this opportunity, there will be another chance through the Health Department in November. For more information on flu vaccinations, visit http://cchd.maryland.gov/flu/ or https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2018-2019.htm or contact Carroll County Health Department at 410-876-4900.