San Antonio.- It’s that time of year again when getting supplies and clothes for school takes over the family schedule and budget. And all that preparation will keep families busy - but getting immunizations done early should be at the top of the list. This year Bexar County schools aren’t fooling around: there will be no grace time to get required immunizations once school starts – so here’s the information you need to be ready and prepared to attend the first day of school.
By Angela Covo
With less than four weeks to go before most San Antonio’s schools open for business this year on Aug.22, there are things parents need to know to be ready for the big first day – especially regarding immunizations.
San Antonio’s public health team, Metro Health, explains how important it is for parents to make vaccinations a top priority of back-to-school preparations – even college freshman.
State law requires current immunization records for children attending private, public or charter schools, and college. Even children enrolled in child-care, early childhood programs or pre-K programs must meet the basic immunization requirements.
And even those who already graduated from high school and are headed for their next great educational adventures should be prepared because a new state law requires the meningococcal vaccination for first-time college students, too, to prevent meningitis.
“Really and truly, this year all the schools say they are going to be steadfast to the rules – ‘No Shots, No School, No Kidding’ – so parents need to be aware and prepared, and really should not wait until the last minute, because Metro Health, University Health System and pediatricians across the city will be very busy, and the longer parents wait, the more difficultit will be to fulfill the requirements before the first day of school,” Clark Petty, senior management analyst at Metro Health, said.
There are several events the four big public health entities CommuniCare, CentroMed, University Health System and Metro Health are sponsoring – check the schedule online here.
It’s not just about satisfying requirements either – it’s about keeping kids safe and healthy, doctors and health professionals say.
“Immunizations create a shield of protection on school campuses and in the community. Given recent outbreaks of mumps and whooping cough across the nation, it is critically important that parents ensure their children are protected against these diseases. They should also check their own records to take care of any missing vaccinations,”former Metro Health Director of Health Dr. Fernando Guerra said in a press release about back to school immunizations.
For students starting kindergarten, first grade, seventh grade, eighth grade and ninth grade, preparations might include new vaccinations and boosters before school starts.
Besides the required vaccines in infancy, the following schedule covers the basics:
2 doses of hepatitis A for students entering K – 1st grade; 2 doses of varicella for students entering K through first and seventh, eighth and ninth grade; a single booster dose of tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) for students entering seventh grade if at least five years have passed since the last dose of tetanus/diphtheria containing vaccine.
Finally, students entering seventh, eighth and ninth, and now the first year of college are required to have one dose of meningococcal vaccine, which protects against bacterial meningitis.
“Meningitis has vague symptoms like the flu and by the time the disease is diagnosed, it’s sometimes too late – and this year state law requires the vaccine for seventh, eighth and ninth graders, as well as first-time college students,” Petty added.
Metro Health encourages students to see their primary care physician so they can have an annual well-child checkup when they receive their vaccinations.
And get the most out of the doctor’s visit. Remember to take the most recent shot record, along with proof of insurance and the letter from the school nurse, if you received one. It can also be helpful to write down your questions and concerns before the visit so you don’t miss the opportunity to ask the doctor.
College-bound students should also ask about the Tdap and HPV vaccines that are available and learn more about healthy practices and when they should consider going to the doctor while away from home.
For help determining which vaccines your child needs for the 2011-2012 school year and when to get the vaccines, please contact your child's doctor or immunization clinic.
For information about where to take your child to get free or reduced-cost vaccines call the Immunization Branch Customer Service number (800) 252-9152.
Metro Health clinics are also available to assist families who are unable to schedule appointments with a physician. Individuals should call the Immunization Division at (210) 207-8894 to make an appointment as soon as possible.