Dr. Vazquez discusses immunizations
Posted on 02/20/2023
Mondays with Maria Banner



Dr. Maria Vazquez: Hello, I'm Maria Vazquez, Superintendent of Orange County Public Schools, and this is Mondays with Maria. Today we have a new guest with us, Dr. Robert Karch. He is the director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County. He brings two decades of experience to the job, including ambulatory and inpatient pediatrics with the Nemours Foundation. And he has served as the president of the medical staff and chair of the Medical Executive Committee at Nemours Children's Hospital right here in Orlando. And it's also important to note that you are a parent of students within Orange County Public Schools. Welcome Dr. Karch.

Dr. Robert Karch: Thanks, Dr. Vazquez. It's great to be here. Thanks for the opportunity to speak about all the important work we're doing at the Florida Department of Health in Orange County in conjunction with OCPS.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: So, Dr. Karch, this year our families have had to do something new, something they've never done before. They've had to opt in for specific health services. Previously, all parents needed to opt out if they did not want to receive these services. And our parents and our guardians who have been used to getting these services such as assistance in the school clinic, vision screenings, flu vaccines, and so many more, uh, screenings, need to know that these services will only be administered when they opt in. It really has been an adjustment. And you and I have both been concerned about the low numbers of families opting in. Could you talk to us a little bit about that?

Dr. Robert Karch: Yeah, that's right. Important. Health screenings, like vision screening. hearing screening, growth and development and even scoliosis. Checks for abnormal curvature of the spine are all decreased this year compared to previous years. So I really want to encourage parents and guardians to opt in to health services if they wish to have these important health screenings performed on the children. And it's not just health screenings, it's health services, uh, performed by the school nurses. They require parents and guardians to opt in. So, uh, for parents who choose to opt in, it's very, the process is very easy. Uh, just go to their Skyward account and choose opt-in and they can find that account, of course, at the OCPS website at

Dr. Maria Vazquez: It's so important that children receive these services that they have in the past. So, uh, I, I really do want to encourage our families go to your Skyward account and check Opt in. So this is the time of year that we have families registering our new kindergartners. We're so excited that they're going to be joining the OCPS family. So there's some important screenings that are necessary and some important immunizations they need. Could you talk to us about that as well?

Dr. Robert Karch: Absolutely. An exciting time of the year, incoming kindergartners, but students have to come to school protected against vaccine preventable diseases. Diseases like measles, pertussis, whooping cough, and even polio and many others. Uh, so unfortunately, uh, we have seen a fairly steady decline in the immunization completion rate for incoming kindergartners since about 2015. And Florida requires that all students have their required immunizations before coming to school, including incoming kindergartners and incoming seventh graders for their TDAP booster. So to that end, over the coming months, the Florida Department of Health, in conjunction with OCPS, is going to be holding several immunization events, uh, that we're excited about. Uh, the immunization clinic at the Department of Health is always open and available for immunizations. We really encourage all parents to ensure that their child's immunizations are up to date, particularly those with students entering kindergarten and seventh grade.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: I'm so glad you brought up the older students because sometimes parents don't realize it's not just your incoming kindergartners, it's those seventh graders that also need those important immunizations.

Dr. Robert Karch: Booster shots.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Yes. And this has been so helpful and we are very, very excited about your new role and the partnership that we have with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County. And I know we will continue to work together to be able to provide those opportunities for our families to get health services that are so critical to students' wellbeing.

Dr. Robert Karch: Absolutely. There are many things I want to talk about. Perhaps I come back, you know, in the future and we talk about, uh, uh, students working against tobacco. Lots of different projects that I'm excited to work with OCPS about. But today really wanted to focus on opting in for health services, making sure that parents and guardians who want to have these important screenings and health services simply go to the OCPS, Skyward website portal and opt in. It's very easy and very important and ensure that all students immunizations are up to date, particularly kindergartners coming in and seventh graders.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: And now for our Spanish speaking families.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: I think we're all going to work together to boost our immunization rates. Thank you so much for joining us.

Dr. Robert Karch: Thank you for having me.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Well, that's it for this session of Mondays with Maria. We look forward to seeing you again next time. Thank you.