Back to School and Immunizations

August is National Immunization Awareness month.  This is the perfect time to remind family, friends and co-workers about immunizations.  Parents are enrolling their children in school, young adults are preparing to enter college and employers are planning for this year’s flu season. 

Vaccines offer safe and effective protection from many infectious diseases.  Getting immunized is a life-long life protecting community effort, everyone from infants to the elderly need to keep current on their immunizations.   Immunization is one of the most significant public health achievements in the past century.  Several diseases such as small pox and polio have been eradicated due to vaccines.  There are still cases of measles, diphtheria, rubella (chicken pox), and pertussis  (whooping cough) in the  U.S. and adults and children still die from these and other vaccine preventable diseases.

Children attending school in Texas are required to have been vaccinated for 9 communicable diseases.  Children going into daycare have to be vaccinated for a total of 12 diseases.  Young adults entering college should check with the registrar’s office to find out what immunizations are required before enrollment.  Not all colleges and universities have immunization requirements but there are recommendations for students who will be living in dormitories.  Your state’s Department of Health website will have all the information you need for immunizations.

The state of Texas grants and acknowledges the rights of a parent to exempt their children from vaccination requirements for school, daycare and college for reasons of religious beliefs or medical reasons.  In 2003 the Texas legislature passed changes that expanded reasons a parent can claim an exemption.  This process is complicated and time consuming.  If you plan to have your child exempt from vaccination requirements don’t wait until the last minute.  Check with your state’s Department of Health to obtain the official forms and instructions to complete this process.

Now is also a good time to remind any senior citizens in your life to check with their health care providers in regard to flu and pneumonia vaccine.  Children and the elderly are most at risk for communicable diseases.

Health insurances will cover immunization costs.  If you are uninsured check with your city/county health department on where you can go to get reduced cost or free vaccinations.  In Texas you can call 211Texas toll free to get this information.  You can also call the Immunization Branch Customer Service number (800) 252-9152 if you have any questions or need more information about immunizations.

Lou Ann Enis, Registered Nurse and Occupational Health Supervisor

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