The following opinion-editorial column was submitted to the Tri-City News by Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer.
As the summer holidays draw to a close, many families are starting to think about their back-to-school tasks.
Buy school supplies.
Take their children for haircuts.
And help their kids pick out the perfect outfit for the first day of school.
This year, I'm urging you to add another important item to your to-do list: Ensure that your children are up to date on their routine vaccinations and that they get vaccinated against COVID-19.
August is National Immunization Awareness Month and the perfect time to take your children for any outstanding vaccines.
As kids start or return to child care or school, they'll be interacting with many friends, caregivers and teachers, increasing their chances of being exposed to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
And we know respiratory illness season will soon be here, bringing influenza and other viruses too.
Getting your children vaccinated is the best way to protect them from vaccine-preventable illnesses that can cause serious illness, long-term disability and even death.
Children six and younger are eligible for free vaccines to protect them from more than a dozen diseases, such as polio, measles and chickenpox.
In many regions, we also provide children with free vaccines at school clinics beginning in Grade 6, including the human papillomavirus and meningitis vaccines, as well as booster doses of vaccines they first received in early childhood.
As of Aug. 2, 2022, all children six months and older are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, and booster doses have been approved for children aged five to 11.
To get your infant or young child vaccinated, you can book an appointment at a health unit or at your doctor's or nurse practitioner's office if they do vaccinations.
If your child is older than five, you can also book an appointment to get them vaccinated at some pharmacies.
School-aged children and teens typically receive their vaccines at clinics held at schools. However, they can also get vaccinated at health units, some doctors' and nurse practitioners' offices and some pharmacies.
As many young adults begin mixing in new social groups this fall, pursue post-secondary opportunities or move into campus housing, vaccines against influenza and meningitis are recommended along with a fall booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
I encourage everyone to visit immunizebc.ca for more information about childhood and young adult vaccines, and to use the online tool to find a health unit close to home.
To get your child a COVID-19 vaccine, you can register them through the provincial Get Vaccinated system at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/vaccine/register.
After you do so, you'll receive an invitation to book an appointment at a child-friendly clinic in your community.
To learn more about COVID-19 vaccines for children, I encourage you to visit https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/vaccine/children.
Whether the young people in your life are infants or young adults, now is the time to protect them through immunizations.
Just like packing healthy lunches for your kids and encouraging them to get enough exercise and sleep, getting them vaccinated is one of the most important things you can do to help them have a happy and healthy school year.