The back-to-school routine for many parents includes shopping for school clothes and school supplies. Another part of getting ready for back to school, especially this year, should include getting kids up-to-date with their vaccinations.
The North Dakota Department of Health school immunization requirements for the 2010-2011 school year have been available for quite some time, and parents can check the list and make sure their kids are up-to-date.
"The list is put out early every year, so it's not something parents have to wait for. They can do this sooner than back-to-school time, but it should definitely be a part of their normal back-to-school routine if they don't do it sooner," said registered nurse Melissa Fettig, immunization coordinator for First District Health Unit.
Registered nurse Melissa Fettig, immunization coordinator for First District Health Unit, opens up a vaccine drawer to prepare vaccine.
Prepared vaccines are arranged on a table for back to school immunizations.
"I believe it's especially important this year, because one of the requirements for kids entering kindergarten is DTaP. Because of large outbreaks of pertussis in California and outbreaks across the U.S., it's important for them to get up-to-date," Fettig added.
Parents can make appointments with their primary care provider or clinic, or First District Health Unit, to get their child up-to-date. Children typically needing vaccines are those entering kindergarten and those entering middle school, though some who have missed doses or have recently moved to the state may not be up-to-date with all of North Dakota's requirements.
Fettig explained that parents might have concerns or questions, and she addressed some of the common concerns such as vaccine safety, using vaccine exemption forms, and other general questions.
"Parents that use exemption forms for philosophical, moral or religious reasons should be aware that in the case of a disease outbreak, unvaccinated children would be removed from school," Fettig said.
"Another thing that's important to remember is that children who don't get their required vaccines now may end up needing them later, for example if they're required for college enrollment or if their children work in the medical field," she added.
Fettig said that before a vaccination, parents are given information on the particular vaccine and their safety concerns are addressed.
"Vaccines, for the most part, are very safe. In rare occurrences kids can have a mild reaction. Typical mild reactions are soreness at the injection site and sometimes a fever that goes away within 24 to 48 hours of vaccination. We always screen children before they are vaccinated to make sure there are no health conditions that indicate they shouldn't have a vaccine," Fettig said.
There are some exceptions where children may not need a certain vaccine, Fettig explained. Those who have had a verified history of chickenpox or varicella would not need to receive that vaccine.
For children receiving vaccines this year, Fettig said, parents shouldn't give the child acetaminophen or ibuprofen before or directly following the vaccine. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends not giving children those medications at the time of vaccination because they can decrease the immune response.
For the 2010-2011 school year, vaccine requirements for children entering kindergarten include five doses of DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), four doses of IPV (polio), two doses of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and two doses of varicella (chickenpox) vaccine. Adolescents entering middle school are required to receive immunizations against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) and meningococcal disease.
For more information about school immunization requirements, visit (www.ndhealth.gov/immunize).