Health experts offer reminder about vaccinations before school starts

Editor's note: the following is a press release provided by Public Health - Seattle and King County.
The start of school is just around the corner. For a healthy and safe 2011-2012 school year, every parent’s back-to-school checklist should include making sure children are up-to-date in their immunizations.
Recent cases of pertussis in Washington state, the unusually high number of imported measles cases in the United States this year, and an ongoing mumps outbreak in neighboring British Columbia are all important reminders that vaccine preventable diseases remain a threat to health.
"Immunizations are a very safe and effective way to keep children healthy and in school," said Dr. David Fleming Director and Health Officer for Public Health - Seattle & King County. "Whether you’re a parent enrolling your child in school or a student entering college, you should be checking to see if immunization records are up to date."
This school year, the following vaccines are required:
  • All students will need proof of 3 doses of hepatitis B vaccine and 2 doses of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR), an age-appropriate series of polio vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine.
  • Two doses of chickenpox (varicella) vaccine or doctor-verified history of disease are required for age kindergarten through grade 3.  Students in grades 4, 5 and 6 are required to have one dose of varicella or parental history of disease.  Varicella vaccine is recommended for children in grades 7-12 who have never had chickenpox.
  • Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis vaccine) is required for students in grades 6 through 10.
See the complete list of the immunization schedules for schools, including child cares and pre-schools. If you do not have a health care provider, contact the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or for assistance.
“Immunizations are a safe and effective way to prevent serious diseases,” said Betsy Hubbard, Public Health’s Immunization Supervisor. “Immunizations protect not only the vaccinated child, but others around them who can’t be vaccinated because of health issues or age.”
Although not required for school entry, immunizations are also recommended for children to protect against hepatitis A, meningococcal disease and human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Ask your health care provider about these vaccines.
Parents or legal guardians have the right to choose not to immunize their children, based on medical, religious or philosophical reasons.  However, there is a risk when choosing against vaccination.  In addition to the potential risk of becoming infected with a vaccine-preventable disease if exposed to the illness, a child who is not fully immunized may be excluded from attending school or childcare during an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease.
In King County, the vast majority of parents and guardians aim to complete the immunizations schedule, but 5.1% of children had a signed exemption at kindergarten entry in fall 2010.  A new law, effective July 22, 2011, changes the process for parents or guardians to exempt their child from school or child care immunization requirements.  Under the new law, parents must get vaccine education from their health care provider and signed verification from their provider if they choose an exemption.
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