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It's time to vaccinate your child

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Pramod Dwivedi, guest columnist

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and it is also the start of a new school year for many children. Parents are busy with back-to-school shopping before the first day of school begins. For us in public health, it’s also the time to remind parents to immunize their children. On-time immunizations are necessary to protect our kids against 16 diseases — some of them serious and potentially deadly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that vaccinations will prevent more than 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths in children born between 1994 and 2013.

Iowa has many families who believe in immunizing their children. In order to avoid vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, immunizations are vitally important. In addition, they are also required for school enrollment in Iowa.

Vaccinations that are required before beginning kindergarten include DTaP (diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis), polio, measles/mumps/rubella, varicella (chickenpox), and hepatitis B vaccine. Since fall of 2013, Iowa has required a booster dose of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) before the beginning of 7th grade. All students entering 7th grade, will need proof of receiving a Tdap vaccine to protect them against whooping cough. Children in Iowa that attend a registered day care or child care center are also required to have proof of vaccinations.

Governor Branstad signed a bill that will require all incoming 7th graders and 12th grade students to provide proof of vaccine to protect against meningitis starting in the 2017-18 school year.

Our state’s immunization requirements are based on the national expert recommendations set by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). These requirements can be found at: http://idph.iowa.gov/immtb/immunization/laws. The requirements are for students attending licensed child care centers, elementary and secondary schools. A parent must take the Certificate of Immunization from Iowa Department of Public Health to her/his child’s school or day care center.

In addition to school required immunizations, there are recommended vaccinations to keep your child healthy and protect them from disease. Recommended vaccinations include hepatitis A, meningitis, pneumococcal, influenza, Tdap (tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis) and HPV (human papillomavirus). Recommended vaccinations, such as HPV, can protect your child against cancer.

Speak to your child’s health care provider to determine the immunization status of your child. This is an ideal time to speak with your child’s provider about the required and recommended immunizations for your child.

If the immunizations are not up to date, schedule an appointment to receive the needed immunizations as soon as possible.

Because of the back-to-school rush, doctor’s offices can be busy this time of year. If parents are unable to make an appointment with their child’s primary care provider, Linn County Public Health is able to help provide back to school immunizations. Please call 319-892-6093 to set up an appointment. In addition, special immunization clinics are set up on site at Marion Independent School District. The Cedar Rapids Community School District Metro Care Connection also provides on-site immunizations.

Linn County Public Health offers immunization to Linn County residents weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on a walk-in basis at its location of 501 13th St. NW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52405.

We are here to help.

• Pramod Dwivedi is health director at Linn County Public Health.

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