Protect your children from vaccine-preventable diseases when you travel
Now that half the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, some of us may pack up the kids and travel farther than our backyards this summer. But with that comes the potential to expose our youngest loved ones to other vaccine-preventable diseases if they’re behind on their shots.
A recent Health of America report from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) revealed that in 2020 there was a nearly 26 percent decrease in children who received a routine vaccination compared to 2019.
“Missed well-child visits are a primary cause of under-vaccinated children,” says Dr. Drew Oliveira, senior executive medical director at Regence. “Even during a pandemic, it’s essential to keep your child’s wellness check appointments. As schools and businesses reopen, protecting children against infectious diseases makes scheduling routine vaccines a priority.”
Although vaccines have greatly reduced harmful infectious diseases, the germs that cause vaccine-preventable diseases still exist and can be spread to anyone who is not protected. Children are especially vulnerable.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise making sure you and your children are up to date on all routine vaccines before every trip. Some of the vaccine-preventable diseases children may encounter while traveling include:
- Whooping cough (Pertussis)
- Chickenpox (Varicella)
- Hib (a cause of meningitis)
What is whooping cough?
Whooping cough (pertussis) is a serious respiratory infection that can cause violent coughing fits. It’s most dangerous for babies and young children because severe cases can lead to hospitalization and sometimes death. Since symptoms can be mild for some people, a baby can catch whooping cough from adults, grandparents, or older siblings who don’t know they have the disease.
There are two vaccines available to help prevent whooping cough: DTaP (diptheria, tetanus and pertussis), which is recommended for children younger than 7 years old, and Tdap, which is recommended for adolescents, expecting women and adults.
What is chickenpox?
Chickenpox (varicella) is a highly contagious disease that causes an itchy, blister-like rash, tiredness and fever. It can be serious, especially in babies, adolescents, adults, pregnant women and people with a weakened immune system. Anyone who has not had chickenpox or the varicella vaccine can get the disease. Chickenpox is usually mild; however, serious complications (including death) can occur in otherwise healthy, unvaccinated children and adults.
The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get the varicella vaccine. The CDC recommends everyone — including children, adolescents and adults — get two doses of vaccine if they have never had chickenpox or were never vaccinated.
What is Hib?
Hib disease is a serious illness caused by the bacteria Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). The most common type of Hib disease is meningitis. Meningitis is an infection of the tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include:
- High fever
- Headache or stiff neck
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Poor eating and drinking, low alertness, or vomiting (in babies)
Most babies and children younger than 5 years old with Hib disease need care in the hospital. Even with treatment, the CDC estimates as many as 1 out of 20 children with Hib meningitis dies. And as many as 1 out of 5 children who survive Hib meningitis will have brain damage or become deaf.
The CDC strongly encourages Hib vaccination for all children younger than 5 years old. Older children and adults usually do not need a Hib vaccine, unless they have certain medical conditions.
Protection offers peace of mind
“Vaccinations are important because they help us avoid getting sick while away on vacation or coming back home and spreading a disease to others,” says Dr. Oliveira. “This is especially important for people who cannot get vaccinated, such as those with weakened immune systems or other health conditions.”
Routine vaccines are covered at no cost under most health plans. Regence members are encouraged to take advantage of all their no-cost preventive care benefits for better long-term health, including screenings and immunizations. Health plan benefits and coverage information is available by logging in to your account at regence.com.
Regence also covers COVID-19 vaccinations at no cost under most health plans. Your state health department will be your best source of information about where you can get vaccinated. Or you can visit vaccinefinder.org. More information about your coverage for COVID-19 vaccinations, testing and treatment can be found at regence.com.