Protect Your Patients Before They Head Back to School!

By Alyssa Strouse, MPH, Adult and Adolescent Immunization Coordinator, MDHHS Division of Immunization

Summer months are the perfect time for fun, family, and friends, and for catching back up on vaccines. While busy parents make lists
and stock up on back-to-school essentials, take the time to reach out and remind them that vaccines are important back-to-school items too.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant drop in well-child visits has resulted in delays in vaccinations. While outpatient visits to adult primary care physicians have rebounded to near pre-pandemic levels, pediatric visits and immunization rates have been slower to rebound.1 According to the Michigan Care Improvement Registry (MCIR) and as of May 2021, the coverage rate for Michigan adolescents 13 through 17 years of age for the 1323213* vaccine series was 42.3% and has been declining in recent months. Concern exists that delays in vaccinations, and decreasing vaccination rates, may result in secondary outbreaks with vaccine-preventable diseases.

Adolescents require several vaccines to keep them healthy and fully protected throughout the upcoming school year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adolescents aged 11-12 years should receive one dose of meningococcal (MenACWY) vaccine, two doses of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine 6 to 12 months apart, one dose of tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, and an influenza vaccine every year.2 This back-to-school season includes another important vaccine for adolescents as well, the COVID-19 vaccine. On May 12, 2021, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) issued an interim recommendation for use of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents ages 12 through 15 years under the Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization.3 The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) urges you to vaccinate your adolescent patients with all recommended vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccine, prior to them returning to school in the fall.

According to CDC, COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines may now be administered without regard to timing. This includes simultaneous administration of COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines on the same day, as well as co-administration within 14 days. Although data are not available for COVID-19 vaccines administered simultaneously with other vaccines, extensive experience with non-COVID-19 vaccines has demonstrated that immunogenicity and adverse event profiles are generally similar when vaccines are administered simultaneously as when they are administered alone. When deciding whether to co-administer other vaccine(s) with COVID-19 vaccine, providers should consider whether the patient is behind or at risk of becoming behind on recommended vaccines, their risk of vaccine-preventable disease (e.g., during an outbreak or occupational exposures), and the reactogenicity profile of the vaccines. If multiple vaccines are administered at a single visit, administer each injection in a different injection site. For adolescents and adults, the deltoid muscle can be used for more than one intramuscular injection.3

Providers are encouraged to utilize the MCIR to conduct reminders and recalls to ensure their patients are up-to-date on all vaccines. Recall letters should be generated from the MCIR and can identify cohorts of patients overdue for specific vaccines. Providers also have the option to change verbiage on the letters to illustrate specific messages that their practice may want to share. For more information on how to run reminders or recalls, visit or contact your MCIR regional staff.

Now is the time to assess the vaccination status for your patients and ensure that they are caught up on all their recommended vaccines. As we continue to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial that we protect Michigan residents from diseases that we have vaccines to protect against. Make sure your patients are equipped with everything they need, including their vaccines, for a safe, happy, and healthy 2021-2022 school year.