116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
With the first day of school just around the corner — Aug. 23 in many Eastern Iowa school districts — families are being reminded to make sure their children’s vaccines are up to date, as required by Iowa law.
In Iowa, the vaccines required for school are diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis, polio, measles/rubella, hepatitis B, varicella and meningococcal. The COVID-19 vaccine is not required.
Most of the required vaccines are a series of shots, not just a single dose, said Jenna Wear, the school nurse at Washington Elementary in Mount Vernon.
“The reason many dangerous childhood diseases are rare today is because vaccines are some of the safest and most effective medicines we have,” Wear said.
Immunizations also protect those who are too young or unable to be vaccinated, she said.
Children in Iowa cannot be enrolled in school without a valid certificate of immunization, a certificate of immunization exception or a provisional certificate of immunization, which means the required shots have begun but are not yet completed.
A student that qualifies for a provisional certificate of immunization has 60 days to get their next dose of vaccine.
“The larger picture is that vaccines are important because they protect individuals from potentially life-threatening diseases,” said Jessica Jimmerson, the Iowa City school district’s coordinator of health services.
Students transferring from one U.S. school to another are eligible for a 60-day provisional enrollment to allow transfer of their immunization records.
“As school nurses, we work hard to ensure the safety of our students and community,“ Wear said. ”School nurses have many resources that can help families receive the health care they need.“
If a family needs help finding a medical provider, a school nurse can help them find one.
“As school nurses, we recognize that school is the absolute best place for students to be and will help in any way we can to facilitate children receiving the proper health care they need so they can remain in school,” Wear said.
Vaccines prevent serious diseases that once killed or harmed many people, said Heather Meador, clinical branch supervisor at Linn County Public Health.
“As a mother, I ensured my kids were fully vaccinated because I wanted them to have the healthiest, most productive life possible,” Meador said.
Parents should speak with their children’s health care providers about what vaccines are needed and when, health care officials said.
Since we live in a “global society,” with easy access to the rest of the world, anything that impacts one part of the world can impact another, Meador said.
There were more than 1,200 cases of measles in the United States in 2019 — a disease that at one point public health officials thought was close to being eradicated, Meador said.
"Vaccines are a safer alternative to disease,“ Meador said. “As vaccine rates go down, we’ll continue to see reinfections."
Social media plays a role in promoting myths about vaccines such as they one that they can cause autism or other side effects, which is not true, Meador said.
“Vaccines are here because of the burden of illness we saw and mortality we saw with these diseases,” Meador said. “Talk to your health care provider, express your concerns. They will be happy to talk to you about that.”
Free for some
The federally funded Vaccines for Children Program provides vaccines at no cost to children who otherwise might not be vaccinated, Meador said. The shots are given at county public health offices. Those who qualify include people on Medicaid, who are uninsured and who are Alaskan native or Native American.
Public health nurses also can provide vaccinations and bill a person’s insurance or take private pay.
Johnson County Public Health and school nurses provide the same services.
The Iowa City school district’s Healthy Kids School-Based Clinics also provide health care services, including immunizations for students who are without insurance, ineligible for insurance or underinsured.
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