Back-to-school preparedness does not only mean new backpacks, pens, and notebooks. It includes the opportunity to talk to your kids about new experiences, getting them excited about the coming school year and meeting new classmates and teachers. It is also the time that schools help to keep communities healthy by checking to make sure that children entering schools have their required immunizations. Children who are not up to date on their immunizations are required to get the vaccines within 30 days of the beginning of school, or have a signed waiver from their physician. Information about vaccines required for school entry and the waiver process can be obtained from your school or on this website: www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/Schools/Immunization/VaccineRequirements.aspx. Outbreaks of diseases that can make children very sick still happen, though they are rarer than they used to be. The good news is, for many of these diseases we have safe and effective vaccines that prevent children from getting sick or make the illness milder if they get it.
Vaccines are one of the public health tools that have helped to raise life expectancy in the United States this past century. Vaccines work by introducing a tiny amount of non-infectious disease particles into your immune system just enough to be recognized by your body, but not enough to cause the disease. Exposure to these particles makes your immune system better able to fight off the disease. The topic of immunizations can stir up many conversations, thoughts, and feelings. Some of these diseases can be life altering and even lead to death. I have talked to parents and doctors of children who are sick from a disease that can be prevented, and they tell me that no one else should have that experience if possible. This year marks the third year in a row that the Thurston County Medical Reserve Corps and Group Health Olympia Medical Center have been able to offer a no-cost immunization clinic for local children. We will be giving the immunizations needed for school attendance, plus all vaccines recommended for children, including seasonal flu vaccine.
The clinic will be 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 21 at Group Health Olympia Medical Center at 700 Lilly Road NE, Olympia. Children entering pre-school through age 18 are eligible for vaccines at no cost. A parent or legal guardian must accompany each child. Please bring immunization records, if available. There is no pre-registration for the clinic. Immunizations will be administered on a first-come, first-served basis.
For more information about the clinic, call 360-709-3080 (TDD 360-867-2603) or go to www.co.thurston.wa.us/health. Kids are better protected when they are up-to-date on their immunizations and when those around them are too. Please contact your doctor and check whether you are up to date. For more information on vaccines for children, go to www.cdc.gov/vaccines.
Dr. Diana T. Yu is the Health Officer for Thurston and Mason counties. Reach her at 360-867-2501 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or @yu4health on Twitter.