Keeping up to date on immunizations is an extremely important task for adults, especially if they’re parents, too.

Children need a series of shots as they progress through school, and that’s why August has been dubbed National Immunization Awareness Month.

It’s a clear reminder from the Center for Disease Control’s Partnership for Immunization that children and adults both need protection from serious diseases; in fact, Oklahoma law requires a number of vaccinations for children entering the school system.

The Cherokee County Health Department offers area residents a chance to catch up on shots during its Immunization Clinic, every Monday and Wednesday. Joy Boren, coordinating nurse, said anyone age 18 or younger can come to the clinic and receive all required shots free of charge.

“It’s good to start planning for vaccinations ahead of time,” said Boren, whose offices just concluded the latest free clinic. “Monday, we had 45 people show up to get shots, and we had only one nurse. Parents who wait too late should be prepared to wait in line.”

Boren said procrastination is a huge problem as the school year begins, and waiting until the last minute is a gamble for children on their way into school.

“Schools are becoming really tight on complying with vaccine requirements,” said Boren. “If a child doesn’t have the required record, he or she cannot enroll. If the school finds that a shot record is incorrect once the student has started class, the school will dismiss the child from class until the right immunizations have been given.”

Boren also offered a word of advice to parents.

“Don’t rely on the school to catch inconsistencies in records,” she said. “Keep up with it. Bring your records to us, and we can put them in our computer.”

Brenda Nash keeps a file at her house for the records of her 7-year-old granddaughter, Alyssa’s records. Every year, she pulls it out to review immunizations.

“We think of it like a smoke alarm that we check at certain times of the year,” said Nash. “When school starts, it’s time to review the records.”

Children are often afraid when facing the needle in the doctor’s office. Boren said the best way to combat fear is to just try to keep the child calm and educated.

“Talk to them at home about what’s going to happen,” said Boren. “When it’s time for the shot, try to distract them from what is going to happen.”

Nash’s system for her granddaughter works quite well.

“We tell her to look away, and that what she’s feeling is the good germs fighting the bad germs,” said Nash. “Then we brag on how brave she is.”

Much of a child’s attitude is directly affected by the parents, said Boren.

“Some parents don’t keep up to date on shots, and then when they bring their child in, we have to give them five or six shots. That’s going to hurt,” she said.

The clinic also offers immunizations for those 19 and older, but the shots are not all free, and cost varies from one vaccine to another.

The department offers free tetanus and flu shots, but will accept any donations offered. Hepatitis A shots, given in two separate injections, cost $25 each; Hepatitis B shots, given in three separate injections, cost $30 each. A combination shot of Hepatitis A and B is also offered in a series of three shots, costing $45 each.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, first-time college enrollees who will reside on campus in student housing are required to have meningococcal immunization, which the department offers for $90 per shot.

“We have a shortage of meningococcal shots, so we have been told to earmark them for college students only,” said Boren.

Boren said adults should go in for a new “boost” of tetanus vaccine every 10 years. People who are injured in any serious manner are also encouraged to receive a new vaccination, as long as it has been more than five years since the last shot.

“Adults should also remember flu shots every year,” said Boren. “We have different strains of the flu every year, so the vaccine will usually change.”

NEOHealth has recently worked to provide Cherokee County firefighters with vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B, according to NEOHealth Safety Coordinator Mike Pate.

“The service is offered at the exact cost of the shots, about $250 per series of three, paid for by tax dollars from Cherokee County’s firefighter tax,” said Pate. “We [NEOHealth] absorb the cost of labor.”

The service is taken to local fire departments, where interested firefighters can participate. Pate said approximately 50 shots have been administered in the series.

Health officials are concerned about the growing costs of immunizations. Twenty years ago, according to the Associated Press, children could be immunized with all four vaccines available for $75 to $100. Today, however, the number of vaccines recommended has grown to 12, and they can cost up to $1,250 in the private sector.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, who heads immunization programs for the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, explained how patients could be caught between a rock and a hard place.

“The good news is, we can now prevent so many diseases,” she told AP. “The bad news is it’s gotten more complicated.”

That’s why the Cherokee County Health Department has taken steps to ensure children are protected from diseases.

“No appointments are necessary; just come in on a Monday or Wednesday,” said Boren. “Everyone 18 years and younger will get what they need for free.”

You should know

According to the OSHD, children entering childcare should be up to date for their age with:

• Hepatitis A, with the first dose on or after the first birthday, and the second dose 6-18 months later.

• Three doses of Hepatitis B vaccine by 19 months of age.

• One dose of varicella (chickenpox) on or after the first birthday, or a statement from the parent or doctor confirming the child has had the disease.

• One dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine given on or after the first birthday.

• Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and accellular pertussis (DTaP) at 2, 4, 6 and 12-18 months of age.

• Polio vaccine at 2, 4 and 6-18 months of age.

• Three to four doses of Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) at 2, 4, 6 and 12 months of age.

Children entering pre-school must be up-to-date for all vaccines required for childcare, except Hib, which is not required to attend pre-school.

Children entering kindergarten through 12th grade are required to have:

• Two doses of the MMR vaccine.

• Two doses of Hepatitis A vaccine.

• Two or three doses of Hepatitis B vaccine (adolescents aged 11-15 years can receive a two-dose series).

• Five doses of DTaP/DTP (or four doses if the fourth dose was given on or after the fourth birthday), except for 11th and 12th grades, who need only three doses.

• Four doses of polio vaccine (or three doses if third dose was given on or after the fourth birthday), except for 11th and 12th grades, who need only three doses.

Children entering kindergarten through eighth grade must also have:

• One dose of varicella vaccine or a statement from the parent or doctor confirming the child had chickenpox disease.

College students who are first-time enrollees and who will reside in on-campus student housing are required to have meningococcal vaccine, and all college students are required to have MMR and Hepatitis B vaccines.


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