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School Immunization Requirements: Check Now & Be Prepared for Changes

As the school year winds down, now is good time to review your child’s immunization records to ensure that they’ll meet next year’s school immunization requirements.

Why now, you may wonder?  Why at the end of the school year?

Well, by checking now, parents can ensure they’re informed of any new requirements and allow themselves time to ask questions of the available school health nurse.  Parents can ensure that they have adequate time to not only locate the documentation, but also to arrange for missing immunizations or booster shots that may be required prior to attending school in the fall.  And let’s not forget that it’s a lot easier to get an appointment at the clinic now, rather than during the fall rush, when everyone is scrambling to get  sports physicals completed.  By bringing children in for immunizations during the summer, children won’t even have to miss valuable class time to get to the doctor.

Since the majority of childhood immunizations are received prior to Kindergarten, booster shots often come as a surprise to many parents. They certainly did for me and my oldest child.  One particular booster that parents should be alerted to is the Tdap booster.  This is often needed prior to 6th or 7th grade, or sometimes even for high school.  Of course, since school requirements differ by state, it’s suggested that parents check with their local health department or school nurse for details now, to ensure they’re ready come fall.

What I’ve discovered is that many people don’t realize that the Tdap booster is recommended for adults, as well as children.  While the “T” in Tdap represents tetanus, and the “d” diphtheria, the “p” refers to pertussis, a highly contagious disease, also known as whooping cough.  Sadly, pertussis has been on the rise in many states throughout 2010, and has been coined the 100 day cough since patients suffer from prolonged coughing spells that may last for weeks or even months. Sadly, some people who are infected believe they have a persistent cold.  But 50 out of every 10,000 people who develop pertussis will die from the disease.

While 90% of pertussis-associated deaths are among babies less than one year old, adolescent and adult Tdap boosters are critical in helping to prevent the spread of infection to this young, vulnerable population.  An older sibling, parent or family member are usually the most prominent means of passing pertussis onto babies that are too young to be immunized.  That is why it is suggested that adults, as well as children, keep current with their Tdap boosters – to not only protect themselves, but to help “cocoon” those not yet vaccinated.

Throughout the past year, I have covered pertussis a great deal on this blog.  From numerous  stories and videos from parents who have lost children to pertussis, to articles highlighting the 2010 rise of pertussis in California , to the emphasis on a greater awareness for adult booster shots.  Even as I write this article, the Richmond Times Dispatch, and other news sources have been  commenting on the rise of cases in my own state of VA.  According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 106 reported cases of pertussis in VA so far this year, compared with 48 cases reported at the same time last year.  Ironically, I also received notice from my daughter’s school just this week, reminding us that she will need to show documentation of her Tdap booster prior to beginning school in the fall.  Good thing I already have an appointment scheduled.

Certainly, by adhering to school immunization requirements, I am not only doing my part to protect my child, but also to protect my family, our school and everyone we come in contact with.  I think my friends with infant children would agree.  I do it for their children as much as my own.

If you are unsure of the immunization requirements in your area, be sure to contact your public health department or school nurse today.  Do it now and rest easy knowing that you can enjoy your summer and be ready come fall.

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