Parents urged to get kids up to date on shots

Grant D. Crawford | Daily Press

RN Christin Hullinger prepares a vaccine shot at the Cherokee County Health Department.

With students returning to school, it's time for them to receive vaccinations that are required before they can attend class.

Illnesses can easily be transmitted between students at a school, child care facility, or college, because they don't properly wash their hands, don't cover their mouths when they cough, or just because they are in close contact with a large number of people. To avoid spreading diseases, parents can bring their children to get immunizations at the Cherokee County Health Department, local pharmacies, or the physician of their choice.

"When parents are preparing to send their child to day care, school or college, it's the perfect time to ensure he or she is up to date on all recommended and required vaccines," said CCDH Regional Administrative Director Maria Alexander. "Following the recommended immunization schedule helps prevent against a number of vaccine-preventable diseases."

The CCHD offers all required vaccines for school children and teens, 18 years and younger. Parents can bring them by Mondays, 8-11 a.m. and 1-4 p.m.; Thursdays, 8-11 a.m. and 1-4 p.m.; and Fridays, 8-11 a.m. Because of variations with regard to health insurance, Cherokee County Coordinating Nurse Deidra Killion said they might want to call ahead if they have any questions.

"We have the Vaccines for Children Program, which is federal, so there are certain things that qualify you for that," said Killion. "Then if you have private insurance, we have other vaccines for that. We carry all of the school-required ones. If we don't have the kind that you have, we would encourage you to check with Walgreens or Walmart."

Those who qualify for the Vaccines for Children Program are given their immunizations free. There are also opportunities for college students without insurance to get vaccines without cost.

"Up front, there shouldn't be any out of pocket," said Killion. "If you have private insurance and it doesn't cover everything, there could be a bill, but for the most part, they're going to take what the insurance pays."

Those who recently moved to the state should bring any old shot records they have, so the health department may update its records.

Children entering kindergarten should be up to date on all immunizations required for school, which include MMR (measles, mumps and rubella vaccine), polio, DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis vaccines), and varicella (chicken pox). State law does not require the second dose of chicken pox vaccine, but it is recommended. According to the health department, students who recently moved to Oklahoma might also need two doses of the hepatitis A vaccination, which is required in all grades for Oklahoma schools.

Parents with young children might not be able to bring them to a pharmacy, depending on their age or their health care.

Dr. Jason Mutz from the Reasor's Pharmacy said he has a cutoff age; he won't vaccinate children younger than 7 years. They do have all of the back-to-school vaccines for older children, though.

"A lot of insurances require that the immunization be given at a doctor's office before they'll pay for it," said Mutz. "That could be an issue. Anybody on SoonerCare, that's the only way it will be paid for, if they go to a doctor's office. So we don't do a whole lot of them."

For students in grades 7-12, one dose of the Tdap vaccine is required to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Both parents and teens are encouraged to receive an HPV vaccine. Guidelines for the HPV vaccine is two doses separated by 6-12 months, if the first dose is given before the child's 15th birthday.

College students who plan to live on campus are required to have the meningococcal vaccine (MCV4), as well as the MMR and hepatitis B vaccines. Parents of 11- and 12-year-olds are also encouraged to get the MCV4 vaccine.

Mutz said there is no reason not to receive the required or suggested vaccines.

"Some kids can't be vaccinated, because they're immuno-compromised," he said. "When you don't vaccinate your child, you're risking death to other children. There's no reason not to. They're safe, they're effective, and we've eradicated some diseases completely by vaccinations, polio being one."

Parents should ask their child's regular health care provider about the recommended vaccines. Also, those looking for more information about immunizations can call the Cherokee County Health Department at 918-456-8826.