New school year serves as reminder for child immunizations

 

A new school year is just around the corner. Soon parents will be juggling school supply lists, registration, and back-to-school shopping, but is your child medically prepared for the upcoming year?

Before you drop them off at school on the first day, make sure they have all the required immunizations to keep them healthy all year long.

According to Kentucky law, children entering preschool must have had three to four doses of the hepatitis B vaccine, four doses of the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) vaccine, three doses of the polio vaccine, one dose of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, three doses of the haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) vaccine, one dose of the varicella, or chickenpox, vaccine (if the child hasn't already had the disease), and three doses of the pneumococcal vaccine, in addition to physical, dental, and eye exams.

To enter kindergarten, the child must have an additional dose of each of the DTaP, polio, MMR, and varicella vaccines.

Upon entry of sixth grade, students must receive the TDaP booster injection or DTaP booster injection, three  doses of the Human Papillomavirus vaccine, and one dose of the meningococcal conjugate (MCV4) vaccine as well as a physical exam.

Immunization doesn't stop there.

Teens 16 to 18 years old are required to receive another dose of the meningococcal vaccine, especially if they are preparing to stay in on-campus housing at a college or university, whether it may be for a camp or as a first-year student.

Doctors also strongly suggest receiving a flu vaccine each fall or winter for all people ages 6 months and older.

Required immunizations are often due on the first day of the school year, if not sooner. Aug. 4 marks the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year for Paducah Public Schools, followed by McCracken County Public Schools opening on Aug. 6.

To ensure your child has the proper immunizations by these dates, the McCracken County Health Center, a part of the Purchase District Health Department, accepts same-day appointments and walk-ins.

"We accept either appointments or walk-ins. Either one, we'll be glad to take you," said Janice Downs, registered nurse and assistant director of nursing for the Purchase District Health Department. "It's easier for us to do appointments, but we always try to fit people in who walk in."

The Purchase District Health Department offers vaccines that are covered by most health insurance policies as well as a program for federally funded vaccines called Vaccines For Children.

The Health Department encourages vaccination, even if it may seem like your child is too far behind on their doses.

"Any time a child is behind (on vaccinations), we always recommend them to catch up," Downs said.

Kentucky only accepts religion and medical exemptions from immunization for school attendance, but parents must be aware of the consequences.

"Medical exemption is usually issued by a doctor when the child has a certain medical condition that is hazardous to their health," said Downs. "Religious exemption is used when parents choose not to immunize their children because it is against their religion. We thoroughly will go over every immunization they're not getting so they will know what the effects will be if the child gets the disease. We spell out the complications and possibilities of an outbreak."

Parents filing for a religious exemption must complete a statement indicating the religious objections to the vaccinations and acknowledging the risks.

Children can also still be excluded from school and other groups to control spreading of disease if there is an outbreak.

Talk to your child's doctor or visit the Purchase District Health Department to prepare your child for the new school year.

To learn more about immunization and when your child should receive certain vaccinations, visit www.immunize.org.

Contact Katie Paxton, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8655.

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