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Get Smart About Back-to-School Vaccinations and Physical Exams

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By Peter B. Laird

So your kids are off to a new school year! You’re probably wondering where the summer went… and what things may have fallen through the cracks in the final push to get them ready to head back to school.

“Don’t forget about their back-to-school physical exams and vaccinations,” says Melanie Rodriguez, PA-C, a physician assistant with Baptist Health Urgent Care Express who also sees urgent care patients online via the Baptist Health PineApp.

While getting an appointment with your child’s pediatrician at this late date may not be possible, Ms. Rodriguez says that Baptist Health Urgent Care Express locations are open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. “Most physicals take just 60 to 90 minutes, and walk-ins are always welcome,” she adds.

Urgent Care Express also offers x-rays, she says, as well as point-of-care testing for strep throat, influenza, COVID-19, mononucleosis and other diseases. “Many of these viruses usually start spreading once students return to school,” Ms. Rodriguez notes. “And families who can’t reach their pediatrician during this busy back-to-school period appreciate being able to get their child the care he or she needs, quickly and easily.”

Mental health screening is part of the school physical exam, too, says Ms. Rodriguez, noting the new recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that “asymptomatic adults ages 19 through 64, including those who are pregnant and postpartum, should be screened for anxiety disorders, using questionnaires and other screening tools.” The new recommendation stems from concerns about “a burgeoning mental health crisis, with growing concerns about depression, anxiety and suicide.”

“It will be discussed when your child comes to see us,” Ms. Rodriguez assures. “But if your child is experiencing severe anxiety or depression, I recommend contacting your pediatrician immediately or calling or texting 988, which will connect you with licensed mental health professionals staffing the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.”

Quick, easy and convenient
According to Ms. Rodriguez, back-to-school physicals at Urgent Care Express start at $25 and cover everything from head to toe, including basic vital measurements such as blood pressure, pulse, height and weight, as well as vision screening. If an EKG is required, there will be an additional charge.

For added convenience, Ms. Rodriguez says patients can use the Save My Spot feature found on the Urgent Care Express website. “That way, you can time your arrival accordingly and save on waiting time once you get here,” she explains. “Just indicate ‘School Physical’ as the reason for your planned visit.”

Are your child’s immunizations up-to-date?
All students enrolled in Florida schools must keep current with required immunizations and provide their school with a Florida Shots form, which Ms. Rodriguez says can be done as part of their physical exam.

“Florida Form DH 680 (Florida Certification of Immunization) is used to document your child’s immunization record and is required for entry and attendance in Florida schools,” Ms. Rodriguez explains.

Although vaccine requirements are age-dependent – “many vaccines require multiple doses over time,” she points out – the currently required vaccines for Florida students are:

  • Diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP)
  • Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV)
  • Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)
  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • Pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13)
  • Hepatitis B (Hep B)
  • Tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap)

Ms. Rodriguez says the annual influenza vaccine is also important for students returning to school. “I think getting the influenza vaccine is a great idea. We’ll be offering it in the fall – not just for students but for everyone in the family – at all of our Urgent Care and Urgent Care Express locations.”

What about the newer vaccines for RSV and COVID-19? “The world is fortunate to have these valuable vaccines available, as they can help save many lives. However, this should be a discussion with your pediatrician, so that you can make an informed decision on what is best for your child and your family,” Ms. Rodriguez advises.

Other things to think about
Ms. Rodriguez, who is herself the parent of a daughter starting school this week, says that one of the most important things you can do for your child is to get them back into a routine before school begins. “That includes getting them to bed earlier and establishing good sleeping habits. And no digital screens once they’re in bed,” she advises.

Most importantly, Ms. Rodriguez recommends reviewing safety measures with your child before the start of school. “Memorizing important phone numbers for family members, updating emergency contact information, discussing after-school protocols and expectations – these are important details that can help reassure parent and child at a time when both are probably feeling a little stressed.”

While starting or returning to school can be stressful for some, Ms. Rodriguez says the staff at Urgent Care Express is committed to providing convenient and compassionate care to students and patients of all ages. “We know parents are super-busy and we want to make it easy for them to scratch this important item off of their Back-to-School checklists,” she says.

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