Time for immunizations

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Keeping up with the latest trends in clothes and gear is the popular back-to-school approach for many students.

But health officials are urging parents to make sure their children get caught up on something far more important -- immunizations.

There's good reason for the immunization push: Colorado is the lowest-ranked state in the country in terms of the percentage of school-aged children who have completed required immunizations.

"There's nowhere to go but up," said Jennifer Fritz, public information officer for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. "Right now is the time kids need to get their immunizations updated."

State law requires that children receive certain immunizations before they can attend public schools. The type and timing of the immunizations depend on the child's age and vaccination history. Children who don't meet the requirements can be held out of school.

Immunization records are required for all kindergarten students enrolling in area school districts. Older students who are new to their school districts also are required to submit updated immunization records.

For all other students, most schools have their immunization records on file.

But updates to state law could mean some children who were thought to have completed all immunizations may need to receive more inoculations.

A shortage of the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccination caused the state to temporarily suspend the requirement for the fourth and fifth doses in April 2001. The five-dose requirement is being reinstated Sept. 1.

Other required vaccinations include one shot for chickenpox, three doses of hepatitis B vaccine, two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and four doses of the polio vaccine.

Parents confused or unsure of their children's immunization records are encouraged to contact their health care providers or schools. Most inoculations are available at doctors' offices or through the VNA.

The VNA offers shot clinics every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, said Laura LaMetterey, an administrative assistant. The vaccinations are provided on a sliding pay scale depending on family size and income. The VNA program is available to all children but is particularly recommended for children who are uninsured, LaMetterey said.

Recent fund-raising efforts by the Steamboat Springs Kiwanis Club have raised more than $6,000 for VNA's immunization program, Fritz said. Volunteers raised much of the funds at two Ride the Rockies breakfasts.

Federal funding for the immunization program has dropped from $60,000 several years ago to just $5,000 this year, Fritz said, making the efforts of the Kiwanis Club that much more important.

"It has just been a really rough part of our budget the last couple of years," Fritz said.

For more information about immunizations or to make an appointment, call the VNA at 879-1632.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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