Back to school list includes new immunization requirements
July 26, 2007
Steamboat Springs — Colorado students can expect extra shots to the arm before heading back to school this year.
The shots are necessary because the Colorado Department of Public Health has mandated additional vaccine requirements.
In addition to the vaccine requirements for the 2006-07 school year, the Board of Health approved three new vaccines – Prevnar, varicella and Tdap – in January for the upcoming school year.
To accommodate the demand for more vaccines, the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association will host a drop-in clinic every Wednesday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. for the remainder of the summer. The Steamboat Springs School District contracts with the VNA to provide nurse services for the district.
“Parents can also get vaccines from their private healthcare provider,” said Janice Poirot, a registered nurse with the VNA. “At the VNA, we do not charge more than $14 per vaccine because of the (Colorado) Vaccines for Children program. We will slide that down to zero if we need to if people can’t afford the shots.”
Dot Haberlan, a VNA nurse who works in the public school system, said a school district audit of fifth- and ninth-grade students last year revealed that about 150 students needed the extra shots.
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“What we did is we sent info home with the requirements last March, and in April we did on-site immunization clinics in schools,” said Haberlan, who estimated almost a hundred students have yet to receive their vaccines. “I haven’t checked my faxes in the past few days, but my box has not been filling up with immunization records this summer.”
She added students who do not receive the state-mandated shots will be held out of classes.
“There is no grace period,” said Haberlan, who added nurses will soon call noncompliant parents to remind them of the immunization requirements. “The state law says that if you don’t have these shots you can’t come to class unless they have signed a waiver from their physician.”
Haberlan said the school district may have additional immunization clinics on site prior to the first day of school.
The Prevnar, or PCV7 vaccine, is used to treat pneumococcal disease, which Poirot said is highly contagious.
“The disease can have serious effects on infants and young children,” she said. “The vaccine will also be required for children in licensed child care.”
The Board of Health has mandated a second varicella vaccine to treat chicken pox.
“Every winter, we have outbreaks of varicella outbreaks in the schools, and the state of Colorado is trying to eliminate these outbreaks,” said Poirot, who noted children who have a documented case of chicken pox from a doctor are not required to get the second shot.
“Children still die from chicken pox, believe it or not,” she said. “They can get it from head to toe, it can spread to secondary infections, and if it’s kept alive in the community, the vulnerable populations – such as those who are on cancer treatments or have problems with immune systems, it can be a death sentence” for.
A Tdap, or tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis vaccine, is required of all students going into the sixth and 10th grades. In subsequent years, the vaccine will be incorporated into other grades.
“Even if they have had the old tetanus shot two years ago, they need to get the new one because it didn’t (previously) have Pertussis,” said Poirot.
Pertussis, or whooping cough, can be a very serious disease in infants and small children.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health, cases of whooping cough have been climbing in recent years. Colorado ranks fifth in the country with the number of diagnosed whooping cough cases, and in 2005, the number of cases hit a 40-year high.
“There are other things recommended but not required, like the HPV vaccine for girls,” Poirot said. “There’s also the Hepatitis A and Meningococcal vaccines recommended for all adolescents.”
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