Now is the time of year when parents are out shopping for backpacks, new shoes and notebooks for their children to go back to school. Another thing to add to the list is making sure youngsters are up-to-date on immunizations.
Unless otherwise exempt, students who are enrolled in kindergarten-through-twelfth grade should be vaccinated against diptheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP, DTP), polio, measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), Hepatitis B and varicella (chickenpox), according to the Ohio Health Department.
A Tdap or Td booster is required for those entering seventh grade and two doses of varicella vaccine are required for children entering kindergarten.
"We also recommend the HPV vaccine for girls and boys and the meningococcal vaccine for older kids, those heading off to college, particularly those living in dorms," said Dr. Kathleen Meckstroth, Washington County health commissioner.
HPV, or Human Papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The vaccine is available for males and females beginning at age 9 through age 26 and are given in a space of six months. The meningococcal vaccine is available for children starting at age 11. Meningitis affects nearly 3,000 people each year and kills around 300, according to CDC. Severe longterm permanent disabilities may also develop.
Meckstroth said that another bacterial infection, pertussis or "whooping cough," has also made a comeback in recent years. Eight hundred cases were reported in Franklin County last year and as many as 200 cases were reported in Muskingum County in 2009.
* Washington County Health Department:
342 Muskingum Drive, 374-2782
Wednesdays, 1 to 6 p.m.; Fridays, 9 to 4 p.m.
Cost is $10. No one is turned away for inability to pay.
* Marietta City Health Department:
304 Putnam St., Second floor, 373-0611
Mondays, 8 to 4 p.m.
Cost is $7. Medical card accepted, no one turned away for inability to pay.
"We do occasionally see some cases but there have been no major issues in Washington County," she said. "Still, it is something to be aware of and can be prevented through vaccination."
Whooping cough is highly contagious and symptoms can mimic the flu, causing uncontrollable and violent coughing and making it difficult to breathe.
"It is spread through respiratory droplets in the air and is particularly harmful to infants," Meckstroth said.
Parents of children entering seventh grade in the Marietta City School system should have received a letter in June regarding a DTaP booster that is required for each student, according to middle and high school nurse Carol Thomson.
Any child who isn't up-to-date by the start of school will be reminded by the second or third week and after that will be sent home until documentation is received by the school.
"A lot of parents assume that the doctor will send it to us but they don't automatically do that," Thomson said. "You really should keep a copy of the shot records."
The only exemption allowed by Marietta schools would be a letter written by the parents which is submitted every year.
"We need to have a new letter every year that explains why they are not getting their child vaccinated and it needs to be an in-depth explanation of their concerns," Thomson explained, "It can't just say 'for religious or philosophical reasons.'"
A controversial study claiming that there was a link between autism and the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine was retracted by a British medical journal last year; still many parent groups continue to express concerns.
"Vaccinations for the prevention of disease is one of the greatest achievements in public health," said Vickie Kelly, director of nursing for the Marietta Health Department.
She also added that parents can help to ease any fears by being honest and matter-of-fact and not making a big deal out of getting shots. The health department also hands out goodie bags to children coming in for kindergarten shots.
"We tell kids that everyone who enters school has to have them and we tell them they can do it, to relax their arm, take a deep breath and blow," she said.
Vaccine Information Statements (VIS) can be found at the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/default.htm.