One of the 10 greatest achievements in public health in the 20th century was the success of vaccines. Once, infectious diseases were common in the United States and took a large toll on the overall population. While these diseases are not as common as they were, they are still around, and, until we eliminate them, they will continue to be a threat. Getting children vaccinated is one of the best ways parents can protect children from over 14 serious childhood diseases. In compiling our back-to-school lists, making sure your children are up to date on all vaccines should be included.

Missouri law requires all students to be vaccinated against certain vaccine-preventable diseases; however, they do grant exemptions for people who have medical reasons or religious beliefs against vaccines. Making sure that children receive vaccinations on time is one of the most important things a parent can do to ensure the long term health of children, as well as the health of others in schools and in your community.

Before kindergarten, your child needs several vaccines including DTaP (protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis), IPV (protects against polio virus), MMR (protects against measles, mumps, and rubella), Hepatitis B, Pneumococcal (protects against pneumococcal disease), and varicella (protects against chicken pox). Hepatitis A and the flu vaccine are additional recommended immunizations.

Older children need vaccines, too. The Tdap vaccine (protects adolescents and adults from tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) is required for students in Missouri before entering the eighth grade. Furthermore, Missouri schools require the meningococcal (MCV) vaccine. Meningococcal disease often affects the lining of the brain and spinal cord or sometimes infects the bloodstream. The vaccine helps prevent meningococcal disease and the associated symptoms/outcomes, which may include the loss of hearing or limbs, brain damage, and even death. For children entering the eighth grade, one dose of MCV is required. For those entering the 12th grade, two doses of MCV is required, unless the first dose was administered to a student who was 16 years of age or older. In that case, only one dose is required.

Specific vaccines, like Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), helps protect against certain cancers, are recommended during the preteen (11-12) years. The meningococcal B vaccine protects against additional strains of meningitis and is recommended for those between the ages of 16 and 18 years.

The Independence Health Department will be providing Tdap and MCV vaccines to eligible students in the Independence School District at the clinics listed below. Please bring immunization records and an insurance card, if applicable, to the clinic. A parent or legal guardian must be present.

• Tuesday, Aug. 8 - Pioneer Ridge Middle School: 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

• Tuesday, Aug.8 - Nowlin Middle School: 3 p.m. - 7 p.m.

• Wednesday, Aug. 9 - Truman High School: 9 a.m. - 7p.m.

Vaccines have reduced the number of infections from vaccine-preventable diseases by more than 90 percent. It is important to talk to your health care provider about recommended childhood, adolescent and adult vaccinations. For a vaccination schedule for children, teens, and adults, visit www.immunize.org. For more information about immunizations or clinics, contact the Independence Health Department at 816-325-7185.

 

-- Andrew Warlen, MPH, is the director of the Independence Health Department.