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Students, parents rush to receive immunizations before school begins

By Jessica Ferguson
Aug. 15, 2012 at 11 p.m.

As the start of a new school year draws near, many East Texas parents are making a mad dash to the doctor's office.

Sheri Parish, like many other parents, said she was so busy through the year that she forgot about the immunizations her daughter, Logan, needs for school.

"I got busy, and vaccines slipped my mind," she said. "I don't think you get back into school mode until it's August and it's back-to-school time."

Immunizations, like school supplies, are a necessary part of the educational process.

Students must meet the minimum state immunization requirements in order to register for classes and attend school.

Not only are immunizations a state requirement, health officials believe they provide a level of protection.

"It protects the child and everyone in the classroom with the child and at home," said Bettie Clark, immunizations program manager with the Gregg County Health Department.

The immunizations required by the state are the same as recommended on the regular vaccine schedule by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Logan, a 13-year-old preparing to enter seventh grade in Gilmer ISD, wanted to get her shots so that she could get her school schedule early, but it wasn't a simple task for her mother.

"The process of getting the shots wasn't as easy as I thought it would be," Parish said.

She and her daughter went to four places looking for the three shots Logan needed before they found one with the vaccines available.

The Walgreens at Loop 281 and Gilmer Road, had the vaccines and was able to give them the same day.

She said the pharmacy simplified the process by faxing a form to her doctor's office. They sent it back showing what vaccines her daughter needed.

"Flu shots for ages 7 and up do not need a prescription," a Walgreens pharmacist said. "All other shots for children under age 14 require a prescription."

Family physicians, pharmacies and clinics are places that parents with insured children can go to get immunized.

Children who are covered through the Medicaid or CHIP program, have no insurance, or have insurance that does not cover vaccinations may go to the county health department.

The Gregg County Health Department holds its shot clinic Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Hallsville ISD also has its own immunization program, Texas Vaccines for Children, which is funded by the state for students in grades seven and up.

Paula Bure, coordinator of nurses and health services with Hallsville ISD, said she and her staff let parents know what shots their children need, if not current, upon registration.

If the child qualifies for the district's immunization program, nursing staff members can give shots "on the spot."

If the child does not qualify, they are normally still allowed to register, but must be compliant before the first day of school.

"Most parents go right away to get shots in order to comply," she said.

Bure said vaccines are important for society as a whole.

"It is just a common sense approach to stopping the spread of disease. You have to have more of a global perspective when talking vaccines. It's not just about you or your family."

School immunization requirements vary by grade level.

Students in kindergarten through 12th grade are required to be current on the DTaP (Diphteria/Tetanus/Pertussis), Polio, MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella), Hepatitis B and Varicella shots.

Kindergarten through third- graders also are required to have the Hepatitis A series, while seventh through 10th- graders must have the meningitis vaccine, according to the Texas Department of State and Health Services.

Other vaccines are recommended by physicians, but are not necessarily required for admission to schools.

Parents who would like exemption from vaccinations can request one from the state for medical or religious reasons.

Once approved the exemption is valid for two years, Bure said.



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