PD Editorial: Add vaccines to back-to-school plans

Editorials represent the views of The Press Democrat editorial board and The Press Democrat as an institution. The editorial board and the newsroom operate separately and independently of one another.

Summer is ending for kids heading back to school. Their parents should add the COVID-19 vaccine, and any other missing inoculations, to the list of back-to-school supplies.

Although children seem less susceptible to the coronavirus, they are still at risk of spreading the virus, of getting sick, of developing a serious condition or worse. That risk is far greater than any danger posed by the vaccine itself.

Children are like petri dishes, collecting and passing along all sorts of germs. That is why recommended but optional vaccinations — such as for COVID — are just as important as the ones required by California law, such as those for measles and whooping cough.

Even before COVID, Sonoma County was known for having some of the lowest childhood vaccination rates in the state. The rates only got worse during the pandemic, and local education officials are urging parents to ensure that children have their required vaccinations before returning to school.

COVID vaccines have been a particularly tough sell because they’ve become wrapped up in politics. Statewide, only about a third of kids ages 5-11 have had the primary series of shots, and two-thirds ages 12-17. A slow rollout to health care providers delayed full uptake, but shots are now widely available for anyone six months old and older.

Parents can start with a call to their kids’ primary health care provider to find out if students are up to date on their required — and optional — immunizations.

Parents who want to learn more can call into a Sonoma County Office of Education and Department of Health Services back-to-school webinar at 4 p.m. Wednesday in English and Thursday in Spanish. It will include best practices and health recommendations for students, parents and school staff to stay safe from COVID. The sessions will be live on the county’s Facebook page.

COVID vaccines are available from health care providers, pharmacies and community vaccination clinics. For example, anyone can get vaccinated at the Roseland Community Center, 779 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa. No appointment is needed for the first or second shot or, if eligible, for booster doses. Individuals who want an appointment can visit or call (707) 573-0223.

Spanish-English translators typically are available at clinics. Social Security and citizenship information is not required. People are asked to bring a photo ID with date of birth and, if they have medical insurance, their insurance and pharmacy cards. However, no one will be turned away for lack of ID or insurance. Children under 18 must have parental consent.

School districts also are providing services. COVID-19 and Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) vaccinations will be offered Saturday at the Sonoma Valley Back to School Health Fair. The fair runs from noon to 2:30 p.m. at Altimira Middle School, 17805 Arnold Drive, Sonoma.

To maximize protection, parents themselves should get vaccinated, setting a good example and reducing the chance of transmitting the virus to children in the household.

Adding COVID to California’s required vaccines makes sense, but the soonest that will happen is 2023. Until then, families should do what’s best for their kids and take them in for their shots.

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Editorials represent the views of The Press Democrat editorial board and The Press Democrat as an institution. The editorial board and the newsroom operate separately and independently of one another.

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