You may not want to think about it just yet, but the first day of school will be here before you know it. In about 6 weeks kids will be lining up and entering classrooms to start another school year. Some will be experiencing school for the first time and others will be returning for yet another round of educational challenges and excitement.
Parents still have several weeks before the craziness of buying school supplies and clothes begins, so now is an excellent time to make sure your child is up-to-date on all state required immunizations.
Why now? The longer you wait, the longer the lines will be and the harder it will be to get an appointment with your pediatrician, family doctor or county health department.
For some parents, getting their children immunized ranks right up there with meeting the April 15th tax-filing deadline. Thousands put off getting their children’s immunizations till the very last minute. As we all know (particularly here in Texas) August can be a brutal month for standing in long lines in a county health department parking lot. It’s much easier to get it done now on your own timeline and while the wait is manageable.
From pre-school to college, each state has its own list of immunization requirements. You can find those minimum requirements listed on your state’s Department of Health website. In Texas, the URL is: http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/immunize/school/#requirements.
In addition, school districts and private schools have enrollment criteria listed on their website. Your pediatrician, family doctor or county health department should be able to tell you what vaccines are required as well.
Each state also has immunization exemptions as well. The Texas Department of Health website reads “exclusions from compliance are allowable on an individual basis for medical contraindications, reasons of conscience, including a religious belief, and active duty with the armed forces of the United States.”
A medical exemption requires a written statement from your doctor stating “in the physician's opinion, the vaccine required is medically contraindicated or poses a significant risk to the health and well-being of the child or any member of the child's household. Unless it is written in the statement that a lifelong condition exists, the exemption statement is valid for only one year from the date signed by the physician.
To claim an exclusion for reasons of conscience, including a religious belief, a signed affidavit must be presented by the child's parent or legal guardian, stating that the child's parent or legal guardian declines vaccinations for reasons of conscience, including because of the person's religious beliefs. The affidavit will be valid for a two-year period. The child, who has not received the required immunizations for reasons of conscience, including religious beliefs, may be excluded from school in times of emergency or epidemic declared by the commissioner of public health.
A person claiming exclusion for reasons of conscience, including a religious belief, from a required immunization may only obtain the affidavit form by submitting a written request to the department.”
Over the past few decades, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the safety of some vaccines. A report issued by The Institute of Medicine (IOM) in January notes that “Vaccines are among the most safe and effective public health interventions to prevent serious disease and death. Because of the success of vaccines, most Americans today have no firsthand experience with such devastating illnesses as polio or diphtheria.”
The consensus report also states “The IOM committee uncovered no evidence of major safety concerns associated with adherence to the childhood immunization schedule. Should signals arise that there may be need for investigation, however, the report offers a framework for conducting safety research using existing or new data collection systems.”
The IOM is an independent, nonprofit organization that works outside of government to provide unbiased and authoritative advice to decision makers and the public.
The majority of pediatricians, family doctors and school authorities agree that every child should receive all of the recommended preventative vaccines.
Now is an excellent time to have your child’s immunizations updated. You’ll be glad to have this one checked off your list when the new school year preparations begin.
Sources: http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/immunize/school, http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2013/The-Childhood-Immunization-Schedule-and-Safety.aspx