Time for back-to-school immunizations

Posted: Friday, August 06, 2004

It happens every year. Just as you are getting used to having your children home for the summer, it is almost time to get them ready for the new school year. As the school year approaches, parents should ensure their children are properly immunized against serious childhood diseases before sending them off on their new adventure.

To protect children and teenagers against deadly diseases, Alaska requires children to be protected from 11 diseases between birth and age 19. Alaska has significantly increased the number of vaccinations required and has higher standards in this area than most states. For example, Alaska is one of only 12 states requiring immunizations for hepatitis A and, of those, only three others require students in all grades to have this specific vaccination. Forty-five states require hepatitis B vaccinations, but Alaska is one of only eight states requiring students in all grades to have this vaccination.

Because we have vaccinations for diphtheria, polio, influenza, measles, mumps, rubella and hepatitis, we sometimes forget how serious they can be. But they still pose health risks to our children and can be disabling or even deadly if we do not take appropriate precautions. Some examples of risks to children who are not immunized include pneumonia, choking, brain damage, recurring health problems, blindness and sometimes death. Immunizations have proven themselves so effective that vaccinations against specific diseases are required by all 50 states for children entering day care and/or school. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that the widespread use of vaccines has reduced disease in the United States by 95 percent.

Children entering kindergarten or who are new to the Juneau School District, should have received five doses of DTaP (or four doses if the fourth dose was given on or after the fourth birthday); four doses of polio vaccine (or three doses if the third dose was given on or after the fourth birthday); two doses of MMR; three doses of hepatitis B; two doses of hepatitis A or in the process of finishing the hepatitis B and A series. If you are attending the elementary school Rally program, your child must have had the chickenpox disease or received the Varicella vaccination.

One opportunity to obtain your child's vaccinations is at Super Shot Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 17, at Valley Medical Clinic. This is a free event for any child through age 18 to obtain their shots. You do not have be a patient of Valley Medical. Please bring you shot record with you.

For more information on how to obtain the necessary vaccinations, contact your health care provider or Juneau Public Health Department at 465-3353.

• Justine Muench, RN, PHN, is a public health nurse at the Juneau Public Health Department and chairwoman of the Vaccinate Juneau's Kids Coalition.

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