Back to School – Vaccination, Dental Screening and Vision Health
Vaccines are one of the greatest public health accomplishments of the 20th century. Vaccines have saved countless lives and in fact, save an estimated four million lives globally each year!
As children and youth head back to school this fall, it is an important time to ensure they are up to date on their routine vaccinations. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted access to and delivery of routine childhood vaccines. In Ottawa alone, children and youth missed an estimated 40,000 doses of routine vaccines over the course of the pandemic. This means that many children are not fully protected against serious diseases that can have long-term impacts and result in hospitalization and even death. As children head back to school and resume their regular activities, getting caught up on vaccines not only helps protect each child, but it also helps protect the people they spend time with too. It helps keep children in school and doing the activities they love!
In Ontario, all children attending school need to be immunized against nine diseases including diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, meningococcal disease, whooping cough and chickenpox (for children born in 2010 or later). Over the past year, Ottawa Public Health has been working to notify families if their child’s record with Ottawa Public Health shows a vaccine is missing. This year, Ottawa Public Health will mail notices to children born in 2006 and 2016 who are missing one or more vaccines required for school.
What is Ottawa Public Health asking parents to do?
· Review your child’s vaccine record to see if they are missing any vaccines given during childhood or adolescence.
· Make sure to report your child’s vaccine to Ottawa Public Health. Parents are responsible for reporting their child’s vaccines; health care providers do not do this for you.
· Visit your health care provider to catch up on vaccines you need.
Don’t have a regular health care provider or are having trouble seeing one?
Ottawa Public Health is working with community partners, including the Kids Come First Health Team and organizations from across Eastern Ontario, to help make it easier for children and youth to catch up on routine vaccines. Parents can now:
· Book an appointment on the Kids Come First website to review their child’s vaccine record or receive vaccines.
Alternatively, Ottawa Public Health is offering routine vaccines through its Neighbourhood Health and Wellness Hubs, on a walk-in basis. Parents can drop into one of the locations to review their child’s vaccine record and/or receive vaccines.
Last school year, close to 10% of children screened in elementary schools presented with urgent dental needs such as cavities, signs of infection, and/or pain. School surveillance of grade 2 students and dental screening in other grades will resume in September. This year, three new schools will be offered dental screening services by our OPH registered dental hygienists, for a total of 228 elementary schools. The dental screening is done using a disposable tongue depressor and a flashlight to look into the child’s mouth.
The dental screening is important as it helps identify children in pain and those who require urgent dental care. The school dental hygienists support families with referrals to our OPH dental clinics or to a private dental office and can help low-income families apply to the Healthy Smiles Ontario program.
Dental problems can affect children in different ways, by leading to issues such as poor concentration and learning difficulties in school, limited choice of foods due to inability to chew properly, lower self-esteem and much more.
In September, OPH will distribute vision health cards to over 16,000 junior and senior kindergarten students. This vision health information will remind parents of the importance of taking their children to the optometrist for an annual eye exam. Vision problems can affect children’s learning abilities, social development, self-esteem and hand-eye coordination. If not identified early, some problems can permanently reduce a child's vision.
During Children’s Vision Month (October), OPH will be publishing a series of posts on social media (Facebook/Instagram), supported by a social media advertising campaign. This campaign will educate the audience on the importance of visual health, while also encouraging parents to take their children to their local optometrist for an annual eye exam.
On October 19, a local optometrist will be invited to be a guest on Parenting in Ottawa’s Facebook and Instagram pages. The optometrist will address questions and concerns about common issues around children’s vision and eye health.