It’s time to get vaccines before going back to school


For the Press-Leader



Getting all of the recommended vaccines is especially important for children of all ages, especially when they are in a setting such as a school or a child care center where disease outbreaks can occur. The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) advises that whether it’s a baby starting at a new child care facility, a toddler heading to preschool, a student going back to elementary, middle or high school – or even a college freshman – parents should check their child’s vaccine records.

“Getting children all of the vaccines recommended by CDC’s immunization schedule is one of the most important things parents can do to ensure a healthy future for their child,” said Dr. Terry Cline, Commissioner of Health. “If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to check with your doctor to find out what vaccines your child needs.”

Child care facilities, preschool programs, schools and colleges are all at risk for outbreaks of infectious diseases. Children can easily transmit illnesses to one another due to poor hand washing, uncovered coughs, close contact with people and other factors. When children aren’t vaccinated, they are at increased risk for disease and can spread disease to others in their classrooms and communities. This includes babies too young to be fully vaccinated and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer or other health conditions.

Oklahoma law requires children to be up to date on vaccinations before enrolling or starting childcare or school in order to protect the health of all students. A schedule showing the vaccines required for childcare attendance is available on the OSDH web site at: http://www.ok.gov/health/Disease,_Prevention,_Preparedness/Immunizations/Vaccines_for_Childcare/index.html

Kindergarten Students

Children entering kindergarten are due for boosters or second doses of the following vaccines:

· MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella)

· Polio

· DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis)

· Chickenpox

The second dose of chickenpox is recommended, but not required for school attendance.

Children who recently moved to Oklahoma may need hepatitis A vaccination. Hepatitis A vaccine, which is required for students in all grades in Oklahoma, is not required in some other states. Students need at least one dose of hepatitis A vaccine to start school. A second dose is due six to eighteen months later.

The need for vaccines doesn’t stop at kindergarten. Protection from vaccines received during childhood can wear off with time and as children get older, they are at greater risk for different diseases like meningitis and septicemia, and infection with human papillomavirus which can lead to cancer. Even healthy college students can get sick very quickly and die from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Grades 7-11

Students in grades seven through 11 are required to have one dose of Tdap vaccine. Older students are strongly encouraged to receive a dose of Tdap vaccine if they missed it. Tdap protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). Adolescents and adults need Tdap vaccine so they won’t contract whooping cough and infect babies and toddlers.

Parents and teens are strongly urged to talk to their health care provider about two vaccines recommended for all pre-teens at 11-12 years of age: HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine and MCV (meningococcal conjugate vaccine)

The HPV vaccine has the potential to prevent 90 percent of cervical cancers. It also protects from cancers that mainly affect boys and men. Pre-teens have a better immune response to this vaccine than older teens and this can mean better protection.

The meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV) offers protection against the devastating effects of meningococcal disease, which can cause death in less than 48 hours and leaves survivors with life-long problems such as brain damage or loss of arms and legs. Even with the best treatment, about one in 10 people who get meningococcal disease will die from it. A booster dose of MCV is recommended at age 16 and it is required for first-time college students who will live in on-campus student housing.

Parents of children with private health insurance or SoonerCare health insurance are encouraged to schedule an appointment with their regular health care provider or clinic to receive these vaccines. Children who do not have health insurance or whose insurance does not cover vaccines may receive vaccines required for school and child care at county health departments throughout the state. A list of county health departments in Oklahoma and telephone numbers is available on the Oklahoma State Department of Health web page at: http://www.ok.gov/triton/modules/health/map/county_map.php.

For more information on back-to-school vaccinations, contact your local county health department, health care provider, or visit one of these websites: www.health.ok.gov<http://www.health.ok.gov> or www.cdc.gov/vaccines/<http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/teens>.

For the Press-Leader

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