**FILE** Close-up of a mother taking her daughter to the pediatrician to get vaccinated

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Summer is racing by with only a few more weeks before families will have to start planning to send nearly 900,000 Maryland school-age kids back to classrooms. It means a transition from the lazier days of summer to bus schedules, school/activity drop-offs and pickups, adjusted bedtimes, meal planning, time for homework, and all the hustle and bustle that comes with getting kids through grade school. Among all this, families may also have to deal with what has been referred to as “the back-to-school plague,” which is the first two weeks after school starts, when school kids become the primary transmitters of germs and viruses.

There are ways to mitigate the spread of viruses among school kids, but it would involve keeping them in open spaces, preferably outdoors, where they can distance from others – in addition to keeping them from touching things such as water fountains, lunch trays, door handles or each other. Immunity can also be built up if kids can get 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night, reduce their stress levels, and start eating healthier meals before, during and after school. Another option for building up immunity would be to take kids to the doctor over the summer and get them vaccinated.

There are both required vaccinations and recommended vaccinations. Vaccinations required by the state of Maryland for the 2022 – 2023 school year can be found by visiting https://bit.ly/3yMMTdb. In addition to required vaccines, there are those that are recommended by pediatricians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Recommendations can be found by visiting: www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/by-age/index.html

Both required and recommended vaccines are important – not only for getting past the back-to-school plague, but also for protecting against serious and sometimes deadly diseases that rapidly spread in school settings. The influenza vaccine is just one example. Being vaccinated can keep a child from missing class, save parents/guardians from having to take time off of work to care for a sick child, divert trips to urgent care or the ER, prevent serious or life-threatening complications, or even stop a large-scale outbreak that shuts down schools and sends students back to remote learning. The same goes for COVID-19, pneumonia, chicken pox, whooping cough, meningitis and measle vaccines. Some vaccines are new, and some have been required for school enrollment since the 1800’s, but they have all been proven to provide more benefits than risks, and have saved millions of lives.

Another thing that people may not realize is that vaccines cause the body to develop what’s called “a memory immune response” that helps the body remember how to stop germs and virus from multiplying. It can take about 7 to 10 days after getting a vaccine for this immunologic memory to develop. This means that kids can still be at risk of getting infected until immunologic memory develops, so getting them vaccinated over the summer gives them time to build up their memory immune response before they return to the classroom.

Obviously, ensuring kids get their vaccines is important and can make life easier, but it can be even easier when families get a jump on accessing care during the summer. There is typically more flexibility withappointment scheduling in the summer as opposed to the fall when doctor’s offices become booked during the back-to-school rush. Summer is also a convenient time to schedule the whole family together, rather than having to juggle multiple school, test and activity schedules. Additionally, if kids need time to rest at home after vaccinations or require follow-up appointments, that can be taken care of without having to miss school. 

A further benefit is that there may be incentives available for getting kids to the doctor and caught up with their health. Some health insurance providers offer rewards for it. Amerigroup Maryland is one of those providers. Amerigroup offers eligible members gift card rewards for completing well-child visits, developmental screenings and certain immunizations. To learn more about incentives and healthy kids services offered by Amerigroup Maryland, visit www.myamerigroup.com/md/benefits/medicaid-healthchoice-benefits.html.

To learn more about Amerigroup Maryland benefits and services, to find resources, or to get help scheduling appointments with healthcare providers, visit www.myamerigroup.com/md.

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