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For Release: July 31, 2009
Contact: Pamela Williams, 
Office of Communications
(405) 271-5601

“Back-To-School” Immunizations

The new school year will start soon and back-to-school immunizations are now in full swing. If you haven’t yet, now is the time to check your child’s immunization record and schedule any vaccinations needed as soon as possible with your health care provider or local county health department.

“Vaccinating our children against preventable diseases is one of the most important ways parents and caregivers can protect their children,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline. “In the past 50 years, increased public awareness about the importance of childhood immunizations has helped eliminate major outbreaks of disease like polio and measles. However, we must continue to ensure children are protected or these diseases could return as quickly as the measles did in parts of the U.S. in 2008.”

The demand for vaccine turns into a rush every year before school starts mainly because of the boosters due for children entering kindergarten. Needed booster doses include DTaP to protect against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough; polio vaccine; and a second dose of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine for children 4 to 6 years of age. These vaccinations are required to attend kindergarten. A second dose of varicella vaccine (chickenpox) is recommended for all children at 4 to 6 years of age. This dose is not required in Oklahoma but is very important to prevent chickenpox outbreaks in schools.

Also, children transferring into Oklahoma schools from other states may need hepatitis A vaccine. This two-dose vaccine series is not required in some states; however, it is required in Oklahoma for all students in grades kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Below is a chart showing the vaccines required to attend grades kindergarten through twelfth in Oklahoma and the number of doses required for each vaccine and grade.

Kindergarten - 11th

12th

5 DTaP/DTP/Td/Tdap

5 DTaP/DTP/Td/Tdap

4 Polio

4 Polio

2 MMR

2 MMR

3 Hep B

2 or 3 Hep B

2 Hep A

2 Hep A

1 Varicella

 

Even though the following vaccines are not required to attend school, they are recommended for children ages 11 years and older:
• A second dose of varicella vaccine
• A Tdap booster to protect against whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria, because immunity decreases with time
• Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) because the risk for this disease increases for those 15 through 24 years of age
• Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for girls to prevent two types of the virus that cause 70 percent of cervical cancer

College students in Oklahoma are also required to present vaccination records. All college students are required to have MMR and hepatitis B vaccines and first-time college enrollees who will live on campus are also required to receive the meningococcal vaccine (MCV). The college requirements do not apply to students enrolling only in courses delivered via the Internet or through distance learning in which the student is not required to attend class on campus.

While preparing for back to school, the OSDH suggests that parents be mindful of the new pandemic flu (“swine flu”) that is circulating in Oklahoma and throughout the nation. Children may be exposed to the new flu when they return to school, and schools will be vigilant in screening and sending home those children with fever and respiratory symptoms. Parents and caregivers who work outside the home should plan now for how they will handle caring for sick children at home. While a vaccine is not yet ready to prevent the new H1N1 influenza virus, school children are likely to be a priority group for immunization when the vaccine becomes available. Even so, there could be several weeks when children will be exposed to the virus before the new H1N1 vaccine is available for distribution.

If you have any questions about back-to-school vaccinations, or preparing for the new flu, check with your health care provider, call your county health department, or call the OSDH Immunization Service at (405) 271-4073.

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