Health & Fitness

Dr. Wood: Put vaccinations and other healthy efforts on your back-to-school to-do list

What to expect when your child is vaccinated

Serious reactions are actually very rare but here are some things parents might expect after their child’s vaccine visit.
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Serious reactions are actually very rare but here are some things parents might expect after their child’s vaccine visit.

August is the beginning of “back to school” season. As September draws near, parents throughout Thurston County begin checking off their to-do lists to prepare kids for a new school year.

Because of the use of vaccinations and antibiotics, as well as food safety and improved nutrition, students today are much less likely to get diseases that could be fatal.

Modern medicine allows parents more freedom to focus on the success and well-being of their children in a way that 19th century parents couldn’t. In addition to better disease prevention through medicine, there have been big improvements in understanding both nutrition and physical activity, both of which have major impacts on children’s health.

Here are some of the best ways to protect your child’s physical health this school year:


In 2019, Washington state law regarding vaccination exemptions for school-aged children changed, limiting the lawful reasons for skipping immunizations.

Staying up to date on vaccinations doesn’t just protect you and your child. Vaccinations also protect people who are either too young to be vaccinated or who have a medical condition that prevents them from receiving vaccinations. Protecting an entire community through vaccination is sometimes called “herd immunity.” Herd immunity happens when a large percentage of a group (90 percent) get vaccinated and become immune.

To help the community stay healthy, Thurston County Public Health and Medical Reserve Corps have organized local immunization clinics to serve families in Thurston County:

  • Peter G. Schmidt Elementary School in Tumwater will host a clinic from 4 to 8 p.m. Aug. 22.
  • Kaiser Permanente Olympia Medical Center, 700 Lilly Road NE, will host a clinic from 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 21. Kaiser membership is not a requirement for participation.

For a list of recommended vaccines for children and adults, visit: or talk to your health care provider.

If you need a copy of your child’s immunization record, contact your health care provider, check the Washington State Immunization Registry at 800-325-5599, or visit Washington State Department of Health website.


This simple step is still the best way to keep germs from spreading. To be most effective, use plain soap and water and stay soapy for at least a count of 20 seconds. It’s especially important to wash hands before eating, after using the bathroom, after recess, and anytime they get dirty. Hand sanitizer is NOT a substitute for handwashing. More information on proper handwashing and its benefits is available through the Centers for Disease Control: Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives.

Stay active

The CDC recommends that kids ages 6-17 years old get an hour or more of exercise every day. In Thurston County, only 32% of eighth- graders get enough exercise each week. Find a fun physical activity your family can enjoy together. For more information, visit the CDC’s Physical Activity Facts page.

Focus on nutrition

Healthy eating habits are established early. Involve your kids in meal planning for your family and include them on trips to the grocery store. Practice identifying healthy lunch and snack options, or even learning to prepare them. The summer weather gives us the opportunity to help kids build healthy habits around drinking enough water. Re-usable water bottles are a great option for kids on the go. For more information on childhood nutrition, visit the CDC’s Childhood Nutrition Facts page.

Focus on dental health

Every year, about 1 in 10 Thurston County sixth-graders miss school due to a toothache. This is the perfect time of year to schedule a routine dental checkup for your child. Going to see the dentist can help catch problems early and provides an opportunity to get any needed dental sealants to prevent tooth decay. You can learn more at

We can all take small steps to improve our health and wellness. For families preparing to send their kids back to school, the last month of summer is a time to build habits that support both health and learning. I appreciate the tireless (and sometimes unseen) energy parents pour into keeping their families and communities healthy and safe for everyone.

Reach Dr. Rachel C. Wood, health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties, at 360-867-2501,, or @ThurstonHealth on Twitter.