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Stanley Carpenter, who believes in the importance of immunization, receives a hepatitis shot from Registered Nurse Joy Boren Wednesday at the Cherokee County Health Department.

Recently released from their classrooms for the summer, most children probably don’t want to think about anything concerning next fall’s term, including their required immunization updates.

But it’s a good time for parents to keep in mind what shots their children may require before returning to class, health officials say. First-time college students also may need additional shots.

“I would encourage anybody with children starting school in August to go ahead and get them vaccinated now,” said Registered Nurse Joy Boren, head nurse at the Cherokee County Health Department. “Then they can enjoy the rest of their summer and not have to worry about it.”

The health department has a plentiful supply of all the required school vaccines. To arrange for vaccinations, call 456-8826 and ask for an appointment.

Parents or guardians should have their child’s immunization records available to be updated. If you don’t have the records, Boren recommends calling your former pediatrician or health department office to get a copy.

“We can enter it on our computer so we don’t inadvertently give the child shots they don’t need,” she said. “If they don’t have a record or can’t get ahold of one, they may have to start again. If they can’t present it to the school and can’t present it to us, they may have to start over.”

That’s a situation no child, or parent, wants to face, so planning now can avoid a last-minute rush to obtain the immunizations.

 “We think it’s a good time for them to go ahead and make an appointment if their child needs vaccinations,” said Susan Mendus, educational director for the immunization service at the Oklahoma State Department of Health. “As school gets closer, we all get busier.”

Children about to enter kindergarten are due for boosters for some of their vaccinations.

“Oklahoma also requires vaccinations for college students, especially if they’re first-time entries and they’ll be living on campus,” Mendus said.

College students must be immunized for meningococcal meningitis.

Youngsters entering school for the first time need the primary series DTaP (diptheria, tetanus and pertussis), four doses and a booster; primary series polio, three doses and a booster; two doses MMR (measles, mumps, rubella); three doses hepatitis B; two doses hepatitis A; and one dose varicella. A second dose of varicella is recommended but not required.

“If people move here from out of state, they may not have the hepatitis A vaccination. That is not required in some states,” Mendus said.

At age 11 or 12, children may receive the meningococcal vaccine. This disease was responsible for last year’s meningitis outbreak in Oologah that killed two children and left at least two others with severely debilitating injuries.

“It’s really recommended for everybody age 11 to 18 if they haven’t had it,” Mendus said.

Other recommendations for students age 11 or 112 include a booster for TDaP, known as Tdap; and the HPV vaccination for girls. Boys also may take the latter shots.

“We encourage, if people have health insurance, to go to their regular physician or their primary clinic,” Mendus said.

People on SoonerCare may access their vaccinations through that program. Indian hospitals and health clinics have supplies of the vaccinations, as do local health department clinics.

A year ago, the big worry at the Cherokee County Health Department, as well as its counterparts across Oklahoma and nationwide, was how to deal with the expected possible epidemic of H1N1, or swine, flu. People went to such lengths as wearing masks when outdoors in crowds, and scrambled to obtain vaccines when they became available.

Health Departments in neighboring counties banded together to offer swine flu vaccination clinics, and people lined up, around the block in some cities, for the shots.

The Cherokee County Health Department advertised in May that the swine flu vaccine was still available, for those who wished to receive it. The vaccine expired at the end of May and was destroyed.

 “We were still giving one or two shots in May, and that was it,” Boren said. After that, “We had one family that requested it, but we didn’t have the vaccine.”

She is not aware of any swine flu cases in this area recently.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health, in its report for the week ending May 29 (the most recent available), said flu activity in Oklahoma remained low with 0.5 percent of outpatient visits meeting the criteria for influenza-like illnesses. These criteria include having a fever of more than 100 degrees, combined with a cough or sore throat.

None of the three respiratory specimens tested at the state’s Public Health Laboratory were positive for influenza.

Between Sept. 1, 2009 and May 29, the state experienced 1,158 flu-associated hospitalizations, an incidence rate of 31.8 per 100,000 Oklahomans. Of those, 168, or 15 percent, were admitted to the intensive care unit. Seventy involved pregnant women.

By age, the highest flu rate was among children less than 5 years old (125) and children age 5 to 18 (43). There were 21 in adults 19 to 24, 17 in those 25 to 49, 12 in those 50 through 64, and 21 in people 65 and older.

This year, as in all years, flu shots will be available later in the fall. The shots will include immunization against three strains, including the swine flu, according to a State Health Department spokesman.

Boren said the Cherokee County Health Department will inform the public when it receives this year’s vaccine and the shots become available.

Besides the children’s school immunizations, the Health Department has a range of adult vaccines available, including Hepatitis A and B, chicken pox, tetanus, pneumonia, meningococcal, and MMR (measles, mumps, rubella). Tuberculosis tests also are performed.

“It’s probably a good idea to check the whole family’s vaccinations to make sure they are up to date,” Mendus said.

Stanley Carpenter’s a few years (he’s not telling how many) past school age, but he and his wife came in to get immunized for hepatitis anyway on Wednesday morning.

“I’m a thorough believer in vaccination,” he said.

While there, he consulted with Boren to ensure his immunization record was updated and no further vaccinations were needed.

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