Tahlequah Daily Press

August 12, 2013

Immunizations part of school preparation

By JEAN HAVENS
Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Thanks to immunizations, many serious childhood diseases are a thing of the past.

According to Karen Sherwood, community health program coordinator at the Cherokee County Health Department, there aren’t many outbreaks of diseases like measles.

“That’s because of the availability of preventive vaccines throughout the U.S. and Cherokee County,” she said. “Potentially, these type of diseases may cause death. This is why the Centers for Disease Control and schools require vaccines to be given.”

Keri Ratliff, coordinating nurse at CCHD, administers vaccines to area youth.

“Vaccines are a safe and effective way to help protect children, families and our communities from diseases that routinely caused death and disability in the past,” said Ratliff.

“Immunization is all about prevention. And it’s back-to-school time, and for many families that means immunizations.”

Ratliff said Oklahoma law mandates that children must be up to date on their required immunization to begin the new school year. These immunizations protect against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps, rubella, polio, varicella (chicken pox) hepatitis B and hepatitis A.

According to Ratliff, parents should know if their child is caught up on immunizations before he can be enrolled. Schools will require a shot record.

“If there’s no record, a parent will be required to obtain immunization records for the school,” said Ratliff.

If a child has started a series of vaccinations, he can be enrolled, as long as there’s proof the series has started.

New law affects boosters

Parents of adolescents should note that a booster dose of Tdap – tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough vaccine – is now required for all students entering seventh and eighth grades.

“It is a newly-required law that students, 11-12 years of age, have to have the booster for Tdap,” said Ratliff.

This new law came about because of the increasing cases of whooping cough.

Sherwood said the CDC watches and does a lot of tracking of disease nationally, so preventive vaccinations and laws affecting them are based on tracking.

“When they see an increase in a disease, they recommend the vaccine,” said Sherwood.

Teenagers planning to go to college may be required to have the meningococcal vaccine (MCV4), which is part of the first dose with the Tdap booster given at ages 11-12. Ratliff said the MCV4 is required in Oklahoma for first-time college students who will live in on-campus dormitories or other on-campus housing facilities.

Sherwood said that parents should check with their health care provider or insurance provider to find out which vaccines and vaccine services are covered by their plan. She added that having no healthcare coverage should not discourage parents from seeking preventive vaccinations.

“They are welcome here at the health department,” Sherwood said. “We are able to prevent all these diseases. Families should realize how important it is for immunization.”