Austin, Texas - As students prepare to return to classes as early as August 17, parents have a critical opportunity to ensure their children safely return to in-person instruction by scheduling a child wellness visit with a healthcare provider, and if the child is 12 years of age or older, two the COVID-19 vaccinations that will fully protect them.
For children under 12 years of age, it is strongly recommended they continue to wear a mask as the school year begins until a vaccine for their age range is approved.
The guidance issued on July 15 as APH moved back into Stage 3, aligns with the that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and comes as the number of cases of COVID-19 and its more rapidly transmitted Delta mutation continue to rise, especially in communities with a high concentration of people who have not been vaccinated.
"We understand there is nothing more important for parents than keeping their children safe," said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. "No child or teen needs to face the school year afraid they will get sick. This year, parents can protect their children from COVID-19 and its variants, as well as the standard childhood diseases."
The State of Texas requires children and teens show proof they have received certain immunizations, as outlined in the Texas Minimum State Vaccine Requirements for Students Grades K-12. Required immunizations include measles, mumps, and Rubella; DTaP; Hepatitis A and B; Varicella; Meningococcal and polio. Additional information is available at Austin Public Health.
"For our community to remain healthy, people need to find a health care provider they trust to receive their annual checkups, including well-child checks for children" said Adrienne Sturrup, Austin Public Health Interim Director.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Travis County faced a vaccination opt-out rate of more than 3% for school-aged children with rates close 50% in some districts, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services . In 2019, Travis County had its first confirmed case of measles and rubella in 20 years.
Austin Public Health's Shots for Tots and Big Shots clinics provide immunizations, COVID-19 vaccines and flu shots for children who are uninsured or Medicaid recipients. Services are also available to uninsured adults, and no one is refused services if they are unable to pay. COVID-19 vaccinations for free anyone 12 years of age or older. Neither identification nor insurance is required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
An online Austin Independent School District calendar makes it easy for parents to find events in their neighborhood that include free COVID-19 vaccinations. Additionally, parents can find other vaccination events around Austin-Travis County on the City of Austin calendar.
Protecting young people from the COVID-19 virus and its mutations is critically important to break the chain of transmission, prevent the further disease spread and mutation, and avoid future health complications. Agreement among health experts is widespread that the vaccine is safe, effective and provides the best available tool to stop the pandemic's spread.
To locate providers in your area with a supply of COVID-19 vaccines, go to Vaccines.gov, or text your zip code to 438829 (822862 for Spanish).
For more information on COVID-19 visit www.austintexas.gov/COVID-19.