Rachael Van Horn
Woodward, Okla. —
Summer break is nearly over and there is a tiny, stinging pain on the horizon for some Northwest Oklahoma children before they head off to their first day of classes.
It’s the stick of a vaccination needle. But the pain it avoids is worth it, according to Terri Salisbury, Woodward County Health Department regional director.
It wasn’t so long ago, in the 1940s, Salisbury said, when childhood diseases still had the ability to gain a foothold in schools and communities and in some cases closed schools and changed lives forever.
Now, because of vaccinations, which stimulate an individual’s own immunity to guard specifically against some diseases, the Iron Lung of yesterday is a thing of the past in the United States, she said.
In Oklahoma, school children who attend public schools are mandated to be vaccinated against childhood disease.
“But it wasn’t that long ago we didn’t have these vaccines. I still know a lady who still has post polio syndrome,” Salisbury said. “She had one leg that is shorter and smaller than her other leg and she has to wear two different sizes of shoes.”
On Tuesday, Salisbury reiterated the importance of childhood vaccinations and their role in supporting a healthy community with less impact from many illnesses through the school year, including the flu.
Parents whose children are attending school in Oklahoma for the first time and parents whose children are not up to date on vaccinations need to plan to have their children vaccinated before the first day of school, Salisbury said.
She said parents merely need to take their child to the health department or their private physician and have their record updated.
“Even if the record is from a foreign country, we have the ability to translate that information,” she said. “If they have had the vaccinations in another country, they do not have to have them again.”
To begin kindergarten this year, children need their second Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR), their fourth polio vaccine and their fifth dose of Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (DTaP).
Pertussis, also known as Whooping Cough causes nearly 300,000 child deaths per year worldwide, Salisbury said. It is still a problem in the United States among very young infants who are exposed many times by adults who visit the child.
Also, if a child has not had the chickenpox, he/she needs to have one Varicella shot before attending either a licensed day care facility or pre-school. Varicella is the virus that causes chickenpox and later causes shingles in some elderly people or people with diminished immune systems, she said.
If the child has still not been exposed to chickenpox, and has not been vaccinated for Varicella Virus before kindergarten, then the child will be required to have the vaccine before attending kindergarten, she said.
Important for parents are the series of three Hepatitis-B vaccinations required before kindergarten, Salisbury said. It takes time and there are a minimum number of days required between all three shots in the series.
“But one thing that is different for parents who are new to Oklahoma is the requirement for a Hepatitis-A vaccine also, which is not required by many other states," she said.
Students going into the 7th grade are recommended o have a Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis booster.
“They have found that giving that booster helps cut down on the transmission of Pertussis to younger children,” she said. Another benefit from the updated DTaP, Salisbury said, is the protection it gives teens during a time when dirty injuries are more apt to happen.
Salisbury knows there are parents whose schedules have been overwhelming and may not have followed up on their children’s immunizations or have never taken their child for even one vaccination, she said.
“If they show up and the child has no immunizations, we simply begin the process and watch that child closely so that they follow up and make sure they get all of the vaccinations recommended in that series,” she said.
Year to year, the flu virus changes, Salisbury said.
“It is usually October or November before we know what the flu is going to do, but anyone who is around a lot of people, we recommend they have the flu vaccine yearly," she said.
While neither the vaccine to protect against the Human Papilloma Virus or spinal meningitis are required by law for school children, the shots are available for parents who choose to vaccinate their children against those two diseases.
Parents can take their child to their private physician or their county health department to get all the required vaccinations. Also available, for those who wish to mark it off their to do list without an appointment, are some vaccinations, such as Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis and the flu vaccine. These are available through Walgreens, said Walgreens Pharmacy Technician Taylor Hamilton.
For more information regarding what vaccinations your child might need before school begins, go to the Oklahoma State Department of Health website at http://www.ok.gov/health2