Columns/Opinion, MaryWade Triplett

Spring is the time to plan for back-to-school vaccines

For more information or to make an appointment at MCHD Clinical Services, call 304-598-5119.

Thinking about  back-to-school before the end of the previous school year might not be on the top of many parents’ to-do lists.

But this spring is a good time to change that.

Waiting until the last minute to buy clothes and shoes makes sense. Those feet might grow over the summer and those bodies might get a size or two bigger. Plus, you might want to shop back-to-school sales for notebooks and pens.

With all that going on in August — with both the schedule and the budget — it would be great to already have checked vaccines off the list. Students might appreciate it too, in the same way we all like to rip a Band-Aid off quickly. Who wants to have vaccines hanging over their heads when kids should be thinking about playing, swimming and having fun?

Students need vaccines at various ages. Schoolchildren require immunizations when they are entering pre-school and kindergarten as well as seventh and 12th grades.

A child’s pediatrician might be a parent’s first stop in this quest. Vaccines are also available at Monongalia County Health Department’s Clinical Services.

MCHD Clinical Services participates in the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, a federally funded program that provides vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee of Immunization

Practices (ACIP) and approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

VFC is for children ages 18 and younger who are uninsured or underinsured if insurance doesn’t cover immunization, as well as children who are American Indian or Alaskan Native. Other children who can participate in the program are those who are enrolled in West Virginia Medicaid and West Virginia CHIP.

That said, children who have insurance can come to MCHD Clinical Services and their insurance can be billed.

The next thing to go over is what vaccines students need. Here’s a quick breakdown of the vaccines, and a link to the CDC’s website for more info:

Children ages 4 to 6 years old are required to get their second dose of chickenpox (varicella) as well as measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). They also should be getting their fourth dose of polio vaccine as well as their fifth dose of DTaP, which prevents diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, or whooping cough.

Teens and pre-teens should get two vaccines before the new school year: meningococcal conjugate vaccine to protect against meningitis and blood infections, or septicemia; and Tdap, the vaccine that protects against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough for anyone over the age of 6.

The CDC also strongly recommends that girls and boys who are 11-12 get the Gardasil vaccine, which prevents human papillomavirus (HPV) and covers 90 percent of the HPV strains that lead to a variety of cancers.

Vaccines are an important tool in keeping children healthy. They are also the safest and most effective way to prevent several diseases. Schools are a prime venue for spreading many vaccine-preventable diseases. If kids aren’t vaccinated, they can bring illnesses home and infect you and your other children. When a child comes down with a case of measles or whooping cough, they might miss several days of school to recover. Often, a parent also misses work and other important events to stay home and take care of their sick child.