Law requires immunizations

Students need to have necessary shots before school

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— It's that time of year to stock up on school supplies, go shopping for back-to-school fashions and tell your kids to roll up their sleeves for any necessary immunizations.

"Parents and guardians should make sure their children have had all immunizations required for their age group before the kids return to school or are enrolled in preschool or school for the first time," said Patsy Ford, a registered nurse and Routt County Public Health Team Leader at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association in Steamboat Springs. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment urges parents and guardians to be certain to take immunization records with them when enrolling a child in a Colorado school for the first time.

If a child's immunizations are incomplete, parents have only 14 days after receiving notification from the school for their child to receive the first required immunization and to present to the school a written plan for completion of the remaining immunizations.

Colorado law permits schools to suspend students until receiving proof that the immunization requirements have been completed or are in the process. Schools also may deny attendance to students who do not present an immunization record at the beginning of school.

Some parents choose to have their children exempted from immunization requirements for medical, religious or personal reasons. However, Ford and other health professionals strongly recommend immunizations. "The possible adverse effects of immunizations are minimal," she said. Additionally, a sick child not only feels miserable but misses learning opportunities while absent from school. A parent or guardian must also miss work to care for the child.

"Parents can consult with us or with their health-care provider about their child's immunization requirements," Ford said. Families who need help with the cost can receive free or reduced-cost immunizations for their children at VNA offices in Steamboat Springs and Craig.

Immunization requirements include:

Chickenpox (Varicella): One immunization is required for children 18 months to 4 years of age for entrance into preschool and for entrance into kindergarten and first grade. Proof from a parent, guardian or health-care provider that the child already has had the disease may be substituted for the immunization.

Diptheria/Tetanus/Pertussis: A total of three doses of (DTaP) vaccine is required for students entering a Colorado school for the first time. The number of doses may vary, however, depending upon the age the student received prior doses. The Colorado Board of Health in April 2001 temporarily suspended the requirement for the fourth and fifth doses of DTaP usually administered to older children because of a nationwide shortage for the vaccines.

Hepatitis B: Three doses of this vaccine over the life of the child are required for preschool, kindergarten and for the first, second, third, fourth, seventh, eighth, ninth and 11th grades.

Haemophilus Influenza Type B (HIB): One, two or three doses of this vaccine are required depending on both the child's current age and the age when the HIB was administered. This vaccine is a preschool requirement for children 5 years of age or younger but is not required for older children.

Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR): Two doses of this vaccine are required for kindergarten and first grade and seventh through 12th grades. One dose is required for other grades.

Polio: Three doses of this vaccine are required for children entering preschool. Grade school, middle school and high school students entering a Colorado school for the first time are required to have four doses of this vaccine. However, if the third dose was administered on or after the child's fourth birthday, only three doses are required.

Lisa A. Bankard, M.S., is wellness coordinator for Yampa Valley Medical Center and the Yampa Valley Health Plan.

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