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Maryland parents urged to keep COVID vaccinations on their back-to-school checklist

August 24th, 2022 by WCBC Radio

With summer vacations ending and schools heading back into session, Maryland Department of Health (MDH) and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) are urging parents statewide to keep COVID vaccinations and boosters at the top of their back to school checklist to keep their children and schools COVIDReady all fall.  


“Our children deserve the strongest protection against COVID, exactly like they do with other potentially dangerous childhood diseases such as polio and measles,” said MDH Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services Dr. Jinlene Chan. “If you have not already done so, please get your children updated on all their required vaccines and protect against COVID at the same time as part of your back to school routine this year. We can work together to keep our kids safely learning and growing together.”


MDH has worked in partnership with the MSDE since 2020 to help keep Maryland students protected against COVID-19 in schools, including organizing K-12 COVID testing programs and initiatives statewide and co-hosting COVID vaccination clinics. This year the emphasis for school safety is on what every Marylander can do to be safe and COVIDReady, and pediatric vaccinations and boosters are a key component in back-to-school success.


“We are excited to bring our students, teachers and staff back into schools for a new school year of learning, discovery and growth. As we come back together, it is important to focus on each of our roles to keep our school communities safe and healthy,” said Maryland Superintendent of Schools Mr. Mohammed Choudhury. “We are asking for the partnership of our families and parents to help keep schools safe by ensuring children are current on all routine childhood vaccines, as well as the COVID vaccine.” 


Currently, about 44.9% of Maryland children aged 5-11 are fully vaccinated against COVID, with an additional 15.5% percent having received a single recommended booster. For children 12-17, about 78.8% are fully vaccinated with 36.4% having received a booster. Among Marylanders aged 6 months to 4 years, approximately 9.6% have gotten at least one shot of the Moderna and Pfizer pediatric vaccines authorized in June, with 2.6% percent fully vaccinated against COVID.


Pediatricians in the community, such as Dr. Monique Soileau-Burke from Columbia, said that many parents of young children have not gotten their kids a COVID vaccine because they believe the vaccine is new and potentially unsafe, and COVID is not a serious threat to their children’s health.


“Many parents tell me that they feel that  COVID is not that dangerous for kids, but unfortunately that is just not true. I’ve had young patients become hospitalized with severe COVID illness, as have my colleagues,” said Dr. Burke. “And at least half of all children who have been hospitalized for COVID nationwide had no underlying health issues before they got sick. I’m urging families to choose a safe and effective vaccine over a potentially dangerous disease.”


Among children infected with COVID in the United States, more than 140,000 have been hospitalized and more than 1,700 have died since the start of the pandemic.  More than 28 million children nationwide have received the vaccine, and evidence shows that it is effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalization from COVID. 


Maryland parents can find immunization information for their children, including information about COVID vaccines, at Information for parents and caregivers about COVID and the value of vaccinating and boosting to go back to school can be found at Information for Parents.