COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – As thousands of kids head back to school across central Ohio, there’s an urgent plea from school districts and health leaders to parents. It’s a plea to make sure their kids are up to date on their vaccines.

Columbus Public Health officials said completing vaccine requirements should be just as important as getting school uniforms and supplies. Like purchasing those items, they recommend not waiting until the last minute.

Maroua Oppu and her daughter Arena are at Columbus Public Health to get Arena vaccinated.

“She is going to be in pre-k this year. Yeah, so, we are being ready and have everything for her, so I won’t have to be worried,” Oppu said.

She is getting the five vaccines that are required for kindergarten. The five big ones for kindergarteners are DtAP, Polio, MMR, Hepatitis B and chickenpox.

There are requirements for older students too. About a dozen families with high school and middle school age children were at the vaccine clinic Wednesday to finish their requirements before the first school bell rings.

“We are missing one immunization and we didn’t know that, and the school said if you don’t have the immunization completed, he doesn’t start school,” Ali Farah said.

The Ohio Department of Health saw a 5% decline in children getting their kindergarten vaccines during the pandemic.

In the 2022-23 school year, they say that number went back up by about 1%. Health officials said this is a good start, but they hope to keep that increase up.

“We’ve had a nice steady flow of individuals coming into our immunization clinic here to get their child vaccinated,” said Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts.

She said last year’s measles outbreak shows why this is that much more important.

“There are pockets in our community that are under vaccinated, and we need to figure out where they are. For the most part we know where they are and go to them and provide education on the safety of vaccines and the effectiveness of vaccines before we just go with vaccines themselves,” Roberts said.

Roberts said Columbus Public Health has worked hard this summer to educate and use incentives like “vax cash” to do so.

“Encouraging families to get their child vaccinated early before school starts and we’ve been giving $100 visa gift cards for families who do that. That has been somewhat productive,” Roberts said.

CPH said they’ve had more than 60 people take advantage of the vax cash incentive. Their last clinic of the summer was on Wednesday and all appointments were completely booked.

Roberts said they will have immunizations clinics up until the school deadlines. She said the longer you wait to go the busier it will get.