As the retail aisles begin spilling over with crayons, lunch boxes, and other back to school items, area health care professionals want to make sure that parents do not forget one very important school year necessity-immunizations.
While not all incoming students require vaccinations, certain shots are mandated for soon-to-be kindergartners and seventh-graders, said Carol Thomson, head nurse for the Marietta City school district.
“It’s not my rule. It’s not the school’s rule. It is state law in Ohio,” said Thomson about the required immunizations.
West Virginia also requires immunizations at those grade levels, as well as for incoming high school seniors, added Thomson.
Children entering kindergarten should typically receive two shots, explained Jonni Tucker, public health nurse with the Marietta City Health Department.
“It’s actually four different vaccines, but they are combined into two different shots to make it a little easier on them,” she said.
A measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is combined with the chickenpox vaccine for one shot and vaccines for polio and diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP) are combined in the second.
Jayde Metcalf, 5, who will be entering kindergarten at Putnam Elementary School in the fall, braved the shots in her leg Thursday at the Marietta City Health Department.
“It scares me all the viruses that are out there. To me, that’s why we get these, so they aren’t exposed to all the deadly and harmful viruses out there,” said her mother, Jamie Metcalf, 35, of Marietta.
Jayde’s sister Ariel, 14, also received a round of updated immunizations, including vaccinations against meningitis and the human papillomavirus, said Jamie.
Neither of the shots are required for students in Ohio, but are highly recommended for children in the 11 to 18-year-old age range, as is a second dose of the chickenpox vaccination, said Tucker.
“If your kids are older, like into high school, they might not have had these shots. But you want to make sure they’ve had them,” she said.
The human papillomavirus has been a controversial addition to the list of recommended shots, said Thomson, because it vaccinates against a sexually transmitted infection.
However, it is recommended that both boys and girls receive the vaccination in adolescence, she said.
“Kids need to have the vaccine long before the possibility of being exposed to the problem. You wouldn’t wait until you get measles and then get vaccinated,” she said.
One shot that is required for older students is an updated tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis shot (Tdap) for students entering the seventh grade. The shot is abbreviated differently because it is configured differently for older students, added Tucker.
The requirement is only a couple years old in Ohio, added Tucker, so students in high school that were not required to have the shot are also encouraged to get it.
West Virginia also requires the seventh grade Tdap vaccination. Additionally, the state requires meningitis vaccinations before both seventh grade and senior year, said Thomson.
The only way parents can opt out of having their children vaccinated is by submitting an annual letter to their child’s school board explaining their reasoning for refusing the immunizations and indicated they understand the consequences for refusing the shots, said Thomson.
For example, unvaccinated students would be excluded from school in the event of an outbreak, she said.
State law allows students a grace period of 14 school days to prove they have received required vaccinations, she added.
Both the Marietta City Health Department and the Washington County Health Department have several upcoming opportunities for students to receive their vaccinations.
Vaccinations are offered at the Marietta department Mondays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and at the county department Wednesday from 1 to 6 p.m. and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In addition, the Marietta Health Department is offering extended hours for back to school vaccinations on Aug. 5 from 8 a.m to 6:30 p.m. and on Aug. 6 from 8 a.m to 4 p.m.
Vaccinations cost $10 per shot at either location and some insurances, including Medicaid, are accepted.