Health department urges parents to vaccinate students before clinics get busy

MORGANTOWN — Why wait until August to schedule your children’s back-to-school vaccines? The Monongalia County Health Department’s Clinical Services program urges people to avoid the rush and make appointments now with either the student’s pediatrician or the health department program.

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

Children ages 4-6 should get their second dose of chickenpox and MMR, which protects them from mumps, measles and rubella; their fourth dose of polio vaccine; and their fifth dose of DTaP, which prevents diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, or whooping cough.

Teens and pre-teens should get three vaccines before the new school year: Meningococcal conjugate vaccine, to protect against meningitis and blood infections, or septicemia; Tdap, the vaccine that protects against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough for anyone over age 6; and Gardasil, to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV).

The CDC recommends that both girls and boys get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12. Those who get the vaccine in that age range only need two doses. Children older than 14  require three shots  over six months. Also, three doses are still recommended for people ages 9-26 with certain immunocompromising conditions.

Also, the CDC recommends that just about everyone over age 6 months get an influenza vaccine annually. These are generally available at your pediatrician’s office, at area pharmacies and at the health department in the fall.

Vaccines are an important tool in keeping children healthy, the health department said. Take advantage of any visit to the doctor — check-ups, sick visits, even physicals for sports, camps or college — to ask the doctor about what vaccinations your child needs.

Vaccines are the safest and most effective way to prevent several diseases. They are thoroughly tested before licensing and carefully monitored even after they are licensed to ensure that they are safe. The benefits of vaccination far outweigh any potential risk of side effects. All vaccines used in the United States require extensive safety testing before they are licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Schools are a prime venue for spreading many vaccine-preventable diseases, and school-age children can further spread disease to their families and others with whom they come in contact. Being vaccinated helps stop the spread of disease to family, classmates and others.

For more information or to make an appointment at MCHD Clinical Services, call 304-598-5119. For more information on MCHD, check out monchd.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter @WVMCHD for up-to-date info on health and safety.

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