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For Release:  July 12, 2011 - Pamela Williams, Office of Communications - (405) 271-5601

Beat the Rush and Get Your “Back-To-School” Immunizations Early

Many Oklahoma communities will start school early in August this year, so the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) wants to remind parents that now is the time to get vaccinations required for school.  This year may be even busier since all students entering the 7th grade will be required to have a dose of Tdap vaccine.

Tdap is a combination vaccine that provides a booster dose of pertussis (whooping cough) along with the tetanus and diphtheria boosters. Tdap is routinely recommended for all pre-teens at 11-12 years of age and all older adolescents who have not yet received a dose of Tdap.

There is no grace period allowed for students to comply with this requirement with the exception of military children transferring from another state. Military children may be allowed up to 30 days from the date of enrollment to obtain any immunizations required in Oklahoma that were not required in the state where the child previously attended school.

Parents are strongly urged to ask for the following three vaccines for their adolescent when they receive the Tdap vaccine. These vaccines are recommended for all adolescents at 11 to 12 years of age and all teens 13 through 18 years of age who have not yet received them:

  • Meningococcal vaccine (MCV4) which protects against the devastating consequences of four types of meningococcal disease;
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for boys and girls, which protects against viruses that cause 70 percent of cervical cancer and 90 percent of genital warts in the U.S.; and
  • A second dose of varicella vaccine for the best protection against chickenpox.

Children entering kindergarten are required to have the primary series of the following vaccines:  five doses of DTaP, four doses of polio, two doses of MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), three doses of hepatitis B, two doses of hepatitis A, and one dose of varicella (chickenpox).  A second dose of varicella vaccine is recommended for all children at 4 to 6 years of age, but is not required to attend school in Oklahoma. The same vaccines are required for all students in all other grades.

Children can start school even if they are behind with their vaccinations. They must have at least one dose of each of the required vaccines to start school and then they must complete the vaccinations on time. Parents of children who haven’t completed the required vaccinations should obtain a schedule from their doctor or clinic listing the dates when the vaccinations will be completed. Parents can then take this schedule to the school for follow-up.

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 have the meningococcal vaccine. 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.

Parents of children with private health insurance or SoonerCare are urged to take their children to their regular doctor or clinic to receive these vaccines. Vaccines required for school are available for all children and teens 18 years of age and younger at county health departments and other public clinics. However, county health departments do not have any funding to provide MCV4 or HPV to teens who have health insurance.

All county health departments, Indian Health Service and tribal clinics, and many private physicians have MCV4 and HPV vaccine for all teens through the Vaccines for Children Program. Adolescents and teens are eligible for this program through their 18th year if they have no health insurance, or are eligible for SoonerCare, or are Native American or Alaskan Native, or if their health insurance does not cover vaccines or does not cover a particular vaccine.

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

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