With the start of the new school year right around the corner, the Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) is reminding parents of the importance of protecting their children against vaccine-preventable diseases by having them receive timely immunizations and ensure compliance with the NJ Department of Health (NJDOH) school requirements. The value of student immunizations is even more evident during this pandemic and key to reducing the potential for vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks in our county. Parents should also keep in mind that despite the pandemic, there will be no waivers or extensions in regards to compliance except for the recognized exemptions.
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the overall number of well-child office visits was down about 50% and manufacturers reported a decline in vaccine orders,” said Daniel Regenye, OCHD Public Health Coordinator/Health Officer. “We need to get those numbers back up.
Many healthcare practices have implemented additional precautions and policies to ensure vaccines can be administered in an environment that maximizes patient safety.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among children born between 1994-2018, vaccination will prevent an estimated 419 million illnesses, 26.8 million hospitalizations, and 936,000 deaths over their lifetimes. Although most US parents are confident in the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, misinformation has put some communities at risk, resulting in decreased vaccination coverage rates, followed by outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.
Regenye went on to explain that vaccines save lives but do not work unless they are used. In 2019, more than 1,200 cases of measles were confirmed in 31 states. From April 2018 to January 2019, 33 measles cases were reported in Ocean County. The OCHD urges vigilance about preventing measles, which is highly contagious and can be deadly. Up to 9 out of 10 people who lack immunity and are exposed to measles will become infected. In the U.S., about one in five who get measles will be hospitalized, and up to three out of every 1,000 people with measles will die, even with the best care.
And let’s not forget we are also heading into a new influenza season which will pose more challenges for the Public Health community – especially with a COVID-19 vaccination still many months away.
“For the upcoming flu season, vaccination will be paramount to reduce the impact of respiratory illnesses in the population and resulting burdens on the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic,” explained Patricia High, OCHD Assistant Public Health Coordinator. “Without a COVID-19 cure or vaccine, the flu shot becomes more important than ever. Stressing your immune system after a serious bout with the flu may leave you more vulnerable for the COVID-19 virus.”
The Ocean County Health Department is currently putting together plans, protocols and a schedule for the 2020-2021 Flu Clinic Program and will be made available on our website –www.ochd.org – in the coming weeks.
Vaccine requirements for school students, including recommendations for adults, can be found at the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/.
The OCHD is also providing a general COVID-19 Information Call Hot Line for residents and clinicians to answer questions regarding the coronavirus. The number is 732-341-9700 ext. 7411.
The NJDOH (NJPIES) hotline is available for questions around the clock at 1-800-222-1222 or by dialing 2-1-1. Other related sources; for medical COVID-19 questions call 1-800-962-1253 or Text NJCOVID to 898-211 to receive alerts.