The first day of school is almost here, but will your child be ready? Besides shopping for supplies, the back-to-school checklist should include making sure your child has an up-to-date immunization record. According to Terri O-Gwin Harris, the Director of School Health with the Frederick County Health Department, before your child starts school he or she should have had the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccine, polio, measles, mumps and rubella shots, and the hepatitis B and Varicella vaccine. "These are needed because they provide immunity against such diseases as diphtheria, whooping cough,and measles. Theses are disease that put people in the hospital and can be deadly, especially in the very young," said O-Gwin Harris.
"Temporary admission is allowed in school if the student or parent presents evidence of an appointment to receive the required immunization. The appointment date may not be later than 20 calendar days following the date of the student's first day of school," continued O-Gwin Harris.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention it's true that some vaccine-preventable diseases have become very rare thanks to vaccines. However, outbreaks still happen. For example, preliminary data through late July 2012 show that more than 20,000 cases of whooping cough (pertussis) have already been reported in this country and many more cases go unreported. During this time, 9 deaths have been reported—all in children younger than 1 year of age. Outbreaks of pertussis at middle and high schools can occur as protection from childhood vaccines fades.
Another disease that can spread very easily in a school environment is measles. In 2011, the number of reported cases of measles was higher than usual—222 people had the disease. Measles comes into the United States from countries where the disease still circulates, including many European countries. Measles can be serious, causing hospitalization and even death. Young children are at highest risk for serious complications from measles.
Making sure children stay up-to-date with vaccinations is the best way to make sure our communities and schools do not see other outbreaks, with more unnecessary illnesses and deaths.