Childhood Vaccination Rates Dropped During the Pandemic: It’s Time for a Collective Catch-up

Thank you to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for sponsoring this post.

Many parents I know (myself included) feel that they dropped the ball in some way during the pandemic. My babies turned teen/tweens during this period, and it’s just wild to think of all the changes that occurred while mostly cocooned inside the confines of our home. Dialing back on their relaxed screen time privileges (along with other surviving-lockdown-accommodations) is still a work in progress (to say the least!). Although I’m a big believer in giving ourselves some grace as parents while we continue to juggle numerous responsibilities during challenging times, it’s imperative to shed light on the important (and concerning) stuff, including the fact that routine childhood immunization rates dropped during the pandemic. 

It’s time for a collective catch-up. 

A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report documented a substantial decrease in routine pediatric vaccine doses administered from March to May last year, during a period when a significant amount of childhood health checkups were missed. What’s most concerning is that the gap in childhood immunizations (including measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis (DTaP), and human papillomavirus (HPV) immunizations) from the early period of the pandemic remains. 

As parents, we protect our children and babies every single day – from the research that went into that very first car seat – to sports helmets, seatbelts, and so much more. One of the best ways to protect and keep our kids safe is by keeping up with their immunizations. Vaccines are an effective, proven way to keep children healthy and safe. And missing routine vaccinations can leave our babies and children vulnerable to severe and once eradicated diseases, such as measles and smallpox, while putting the most vulnerable people in our communities at risk. 

So, what can we do? Call your pediatrician.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), pediatricians want to address parents’ questions and concerns during a year unlike any other. Consulting this trusted source (and not Google or Facebook!) is the best way to protect children against some pretty severe but preventable diseases. 

Keep in mind that medical offices have innovated ways to make visits even safer, including robust disinfecting and cleaning practices, providing different locations or time slots for well vs. sick children, as well as offering telehealth appointments. Pediatricians’ offices are indeed safe to visit, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

If your kid missed a vaccine appointment, they most likely missed out on other health check-ups, including developmental screenings and necessary care that occurs during physical exams. 

As a busy working mom, I can certainly commiserate with those long laundry lists. It’s important to remember that a visit to your pediatrician’s office is a check-or-two off that to-do-list. 

I recently had the chance to meet with a few AAP team members and I appreciate the way in which Dr. Whitney Casares, AAP spokesperson and author describes the mechanism of vaccines:

“Vaccines work as a partner with your child’s immune system. The vaccine teaches your immune system how to recognize a bacteria or a virus, and then it is your own immune system that actually builds up your body’s protection. After the vaccine does its work, it is broken down by your body and it’s gone. The vaccine does not stay in your body, but rather it’s your own immune system that is now stronger. And that’s what makes your immune system able to protect your body against something like measles or the flu if it encounters it later on.”

“This is also why most side effects happen in the first few days or weeks, and there’s rarely longer-term problems, because the vaccine is not in the body any more after it has delivered those instructions to the immune system.”

“Side effects usually happen in the first few days, like a low fever or sore arm, and are signs the vaccine is working and your immune system is becoming stronger – kind of like how you may feel sore after a workout.”

Also, check out these solid tips for easing fear of shots, along with helpful language in encouraging kids to feel more in control. View the most up-to-date immunization schedules to ensure that your kid is on track and #CallYourPediatrician to play catch-up if needed. For more information, visit this plethora of info from the AAP, and remember that immunizations, one of the greatest success stories of public health and modern medicine, are the best way to protect our kids, communities, and loved ones from outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. 

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On Boundless Dreams with New York’s 529 College Savings Program

College savings with kids and a piggy bank and money

Thank you NY 529 for sponsoring this post. It’s never too early to get growing! Learn more about opening an NY 529 Plan for your child today.

Thirteen whole years. My oldest kiddo (my baby!) recently became a teen and so here I am, once again, feeling like these are the sort of milestones that scream time is indeed a thief. I’m certain that it was just yesterday that my daughter was born. Then I blinked, and also just yesterday, I was buying supplies to bake a birthday cake for a milestone celebration.

That said, time is also on our side. A little bit can go a long way when it comes to things like saving for higher education. Even amidst uncertain times, long-term goals are still very much alive. As a parent, and a keeper of my children’s boundless dreams and goals, I know that turbulent times (hello 2020!) are just a moment in time – and we can’t, in any way, forget the future ahead. Times like this also remind me that solid savings vehicles are incredibly important. For college savings, both of my kids have New York’s 529 College Savings Program Direct Plan, accounts which I believe are the right fit for my family. I’ve broken down the important stuff below: 

What is a New York 529 Plan? 

The NY 529 college savings plan is a state-sponsored investment account for higher education savings. It can be used to pay for four- or two-year colleges, postsecondary vocational and trade schools, and postgraduate programs. This also includes many things that are considered a higher educational expense – including tuition, books, supplies, software, room and board, equipment (like computers, etc.), and more.

Why NY 529 vs. Traditional Savings? 

Hello, tax savings! An NY 529 plan allows earnings to grow tax-deferred, and qualified withdrawals are tax-free*. Also, most institutions only count around 6 percent of the total 529 funds as usable when determining financial aid eligibility. In comparison, approximately 20 percent or more of traditional savings custodial accounts are factored into the eligibility of financial assistance. This is just the cliff notes, learn more about the calculation at https://studentaid.gov/complete-aid-process/how-calculated.

reflection photo in a puddle

What if I lose my job or face financial hardship? How can my family possibly do this while saving for retirement, a home, etc.? 

One of the things that I appreciate most about our 529 accounts is the flexibility and investment options. There are times when I’ve had the accounts set to recurring contributions (also known as an automatic investment plan, or AIP), and there are times when contributing individually was a better fit. Even small, regular contributions today can make a difference over time. I know that staying the course and making adjustments when necessary is a crucial part of keeping our family dreams in motion.

The NY 529 plan also allows for us to make investment choices that fit our comfort for risk.  Everyone is different and there are choices of investment options to accommodate different levels of risk taking.

What if the grandparents will handle college?

Fantastic! But it’s also smart to have a set plan in place. Many people can open a 529 account with as little as $1. This includes not only parents but other relatives and friends. The account owner selects the beneficiary, investments, and how the funds will be allocated. If you’re a New York State taxpayer, you can also benefit from the state tax deduction*. If one of the kiddos scores a full ride or doesn’t choose the higher education path, the beneficiary can be transferred to another sibling, cousin, grandkid, or even yourself. There are no time limits to use a 529 account.

painting rainbows with watercolors.

Any other benefits?

Including our kids in discussions about their 529 accounts has been a vital piece of teaching financial literacy. When the kids help with my freelance work, I pay them. I give them a token amount to spend and always make a contribution to their 529 accounts in front of them. Being lucky enough to have their Abuela gift contributions for birthdays and holidays further reinforces the importance of higher education and long-term savings goals. My mom’s gifts also simultaneously cut down on all of those meaningless presents that are soon forgotten about, collect clutter, and carry zero value over time. Having extended family on board is one of the best possible gifts. Especially in a world where you blink and your firstborn (who was just a tiny preschooler) is suddenly only four-and-a-half years away from college. 

Big reminder that I am NOT a financial advisor, so please read the disclaimer below:

* Contributions of up to $10,000 are deductible annually from New York State taxable income for married couples filing jointly; single taxpayers can deduct up to $5,000 annually. New York State tax deductions may be subject to recapture in certain circumstances such as rollovers to another state’s 529 plan, federal nonqualified withdrawals, or withdrawals used to pay elementary or secondary school tuition, registered apprenticeship program expenses, or qualified education loan repayments as described in the Disclosure Booklet and Tuition Savings Agreement. State tax benefits for non-resident New York taxpayers may vary. Please consult your tax advisor about your particular situation. Earnings on federal nonqualified withdrawals may be subject to federal income tax and a 10% federal penalty tax, as well as state and local income taxes.  Tax and other benefits are contingent on meeting other requirements.  Please consult your tax advisor about your particular situation.

Investment returns are not guaranteed, and you could lose money by investing in the Direct Plan.

For more information about New York’s 529 College Savings Program Direct Plan, download a Disclosure Booklet and Tuition Savings Agreement or request one by calling 877-NYSAVES (877-697-2837). This document includes investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other information. You should read and consider them carefully before investing.

Before you invest, consider whether your or the beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in that state’s 529 plan. Other state benefits may include financial aid, scholarship funds, and protection from creditors.

The Comptroller of the State of New York and the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation are the Program Administrators and are responsible for implementing and administering the Direct Plan.

Ascensus Broker Dealer Services, LLC, serves as Program Manager and, in connection with its affiliates, provides recordkeeping and administrative support services and is responsible for day-to-day operations of the Direct Plan. The Vanguard Group, Inc., serves as the Investment Manager. Vanguard Marketing Corporation provides marketing and distribution services to the Direct Plan.

No guarantee: None of the State of New York, its agencies, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), The Vanguard Group, Inc., Ascensus Broker Dealer Services, LLC, nor any of their applicable affiliates insures accounts or guarantees the principal deposited therein or any investment returns on any account or investment portfolio.

New York’s 529 College Savings Program currently includes two separate 529 plans. The Direct Plan is sold directly by the Program. You may also participate in the Advisor-Guided Plan, which is sold exclusively through financial advisors and has different investment options and higher fees and expenses as well as financial advisor compensation.

©2020 New York’s 529 College Savings Program

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Courtney Moore: American Girl’s New ‘Historical’ Doll is Straight Out of 1986 (+ Giveaway!)

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American Girl recently dropped their latest “historical character” from 1986, and she’s giving my generation all the big feels. While I can’t fully wrap my head around the fact that the ’80s are officially ancient, I’m fully here for Courtney Moore and her totally rad ’80s-kid nostalgia. Courtney Moore, American Girl’s first new historical doll […]

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Panera Introduces Family Feast

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After several weeks of meals cooked only in our home – a break from cooking is certainly welcomed! Panera Bread recently introduced their Family Feast value meals with popular menu favorites for the entire fam. The Family Feast meals range from $29 to $33 and are available in the following bundles:  View this post on […]

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Lovely, Personalized Stationery and Invitations to Suit Every Occasion

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When I was a newly minted high school graduate, my dear next-door neighbors gifted me with an extensive set of personalized stationery as a graduation gift. I surprisingly still have some pieces from that collection – the gift that started a lifetime appreciation for customized paper products. With so many special days to look forward […]

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Joss Kendrick: American Girl’s 2020 Girl of the Year Rocks Surfing and a Hearing Aid (+ Giveaway!)

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American Girl kicked off the new decade with their annual “Girl of the Year” announcement. The 2020 American Girl doll of the year is Joss Kendrick, a 10-year-old surfer from So-Cal who also happens to rock a hearing aid. We can’t get enough of the important messages of representation, determination, and inclusivity in this doll […]

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