Back to School? Don't Forget Your Child's Health

While vaccinations do hold some risk, experts say they are far outweighed by the benefits of disease prevention that proper immunization can bring.

While vaccinations do hold some risk, experts say they are far outweighed by the benefits of disease prevention.

As the summer comes to an end and the back-to-school shopping begins, there is one more thing to add to your list. Make sure your child’s vaccination record is up to date. Don’t wait to get this important item checked off, as lines can become long and waits can be lengthy. It is also important not to wait because Lubbock Independent School District will not allow children to begin school on Aug. 22 until they are updated on required vaccinations.

Recent outbreaks of pertussis (whooping cough) in the U.S. are an example that vaccines are important to prevent disease. Highly contagious, whopping cough was responsible for 10 deaths in California last year; nine of those victims were infants younger than 2 months old, too young for vaccination. Parents should consider a whooping cough vaccination as well, because as we age, we lose immunity and can spread the disease to those who are too young to be vaccinated.

The danger of contracting a disease preventable by a vaccine far outweighs any health risk of the shot. Parents who refuse to vaccinate their children put their children at risk as well as those in the community. The flu vaccination should be considered in all individuals age 6 months and older, as this is an easy prevention against a contagious disease.

Grade School

Students beginning kindergarten need four shots if they have had all their early childhood immunizations. Children ages 4 to 6 need a fifth shot of the DTaP vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. They also need the second shot of the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella, and the final shots of the vaccines for polio and varicella (chicken pox). Make sure your child has had the three-shot series for hepatitis B and the two-dose series of shots for hepatitis A.

Middle School

Students in the seventh grade will be required to have a booster dose of the Tdap vaccine only if it has been five years since their last dose of a tetanus-containing vaccine. Students in grades 8 through 12 are required to have a booster dose of Tdap vaccine if it has been 10 years since their previous dose of a tetanus-containing vaccine. Students ages 11 to 12 should receive the meningococcal vaccine against bacterial meningitis. Check that your child has been vaccinated for hepatitis B, as well as chicken pox.

Higher Education

A first-time student attending an institution of higher education, private or independent institution of higher education, including a transfer student, who plans to reside in, or has applied for on-campus housing and has been approved to reside in an on-campus dormitory or other on-campus student housing facility, must show evidence of vaccination against bacterial meningitis. A record of MMR vaccination, as well as Tdap is also recommended.

If you need help determining which vaccines your child needs for the 2011-2012 school year, contact your child's health care provider or the Lubbock Health Department. For information on where you can take your child to get free or reduced-cost vaccines call 2-1-1. This is a three-digit toll-free number that provides information on health and social services for your area. You may also call the Immunization Branch Customer Service number at (800) 252-9152 if you have questions or need additional information.

Free Coverage

For those interested, Texas Tech Physicians Family Medicine will host a Texas Health Steps Health (THSteps) Fair from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 5 at the Texas Tech Physicians Medical Pavilion, 3601 Fourth St. in Lubbock.

The THSteps Fair is for children from birth through 18 years of age who have Medicaid. Texas Health Steps provides regular medical and dental checkups and case management services to babies, children, teens and young adults at no cost.

Texas Tech Physicians Family Medicine physicians, residents and nurses will provide well checks and physicals including immunizations.

The Community Health Center of Lubbock (CHCL) will provide dental services on the CHCL Dental Mobile Unit that will be located outside of the Texas Tech Physicians Medical Pavilion for those eligible patients. Educational handouts and informational stations will be made available to participants.

For patient appointments or more information about the health fair, call Texas Tech Physicians Family Medicine at (806) 743-1177.

Story produced by the Office of Communications and Marketing, (806) 743-2143.