Monday Medical: Shots required for school

School nurses, clinic aides responsible for law compliance

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On the 'Net

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment: www.cdphe.state.c...

American Academy of Pediatrics: www.aap.org

American Academy of Family Physicians: www.aafp.org

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov

Give your child's school nurse or clinic aide a pat on the back.

School nurses and clinic aides hold the primary responsibility of making sure each student in their school complies with Colorado immunization law. This tedious, time-consuming process in the school health room has an important outcome: prevention of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Children attending school are required by state statute to have all required vaccines or a parent-signed exemption on file by the first day of school. These school-mandated vaccines are required:

- Kindergarten: If a child has received all recommended vaccines as an infant and pre-schooler, four injections are needed to enter kindergarten: DTaP No. 5, Polio No. 4, Measles/Mumps/Rubella No. 2 (MMR) and Varicella No. 2 (chicken pox).

- Sixth and 10th grade: A Tdap booster is required. If incoming seventh- and 11th-graders missed their Tdap boosters the previous year, they are required to get the vaccine.

- College: Two Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccines are required.

The purpose of school-mandated immunizations is to eliminate disease outbreaks in settings where they have clustered in the past, such as schools.

We don't see polio today because immunization programs have been successful. Chances are, you'd have to check with Grandma or Grandpa to hear what polio, diphtheria or measles were like. But this success means that an entire generation may never have seen these diseases. History shows that when the visibility of a disease goes down, vaccination rates also go down.

Keep a few important facts in mind if you find yourself trying to keep up with school-mandated immunizations:

- Many diseases are only a plane ride away. Most measles and all polio cases are "imported" from other countries. If our population remains highly immunized, an outbreak will not survive, even if an imported case makes its way to our community.

- Some vaccine-preventable diseases still regularly occur in the U.S. Diseases such as pertussis (whooping cough) and mumps have re-emerged in recent years.

- Chicken pox can be serious. While this disease may be mild for most children, it can lead to skin infections and be generally miserable for others. Before a vaccine was available, about 10,600 people were hospitalized, and 100 to 150 died as a result of chicken pox in the U.S.

School-required vaccines are not the only vaccinations recommended for children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccination against hepatitis A and influenza (flu) for all school-aged children, as well as meningococcal and HPV vaccination for adolescents.

Current recommendations require more injections for children than ever before. If you have concerns about the number of vaccines given during a single visit, or about specific vaccines or their side effects, talk frankly with your health care provider. You are entitled to have all your questions answered.

In seeking vaccination information, be certain you are getting information that is objective, accurate and endorsed by professional health organizations. Professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians are reputable and science-based, and their endorsements are readily accessible on the internet.

Be careful not to base all your vaccination decisions on one particular book or news article or on the philosophy of nonprofessional groups.

Remember: Thank the school nurse or clinic aide in your child's school. Their efforts prevent serious diseases from spreading into our schools and community.

Janice Poirot, RN, is a public health nurse with Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. August is National Immunization Awareness Month. Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association offers children's vaccinations on a sliding fee scale that ranges from free to $14 a shot, by appointment. Drop-in clinics for adolescents ages 11 to 18 are held Thursdays from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 879-1632 or go to www.nwcovna.info.

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