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School Immunization Week July 8 – 12

7/9/2013
Kimberlee Wyche –Etheridge, M.D., MPH

Don’t Wait…Be Up to Date on School Immunizations

It is hard to believe that less than one month from now on August 1, we will once again hear the familiar sounds of school buses, and see children commuting to school across the district. Will your child be ready? With supply lists in hand, parents do their best to try and make sure that their children have everything they need for a successful school year on the first day of school.   They join the masses searching for the right color folders and notebooks, and the latest style of backpacks. But, one of the most important things that should be on that list is a well-child checkup and an immunization update.

Less than a generation ago, it was not unheard of for a school aged child to die from a vaccine preventable disease like Polio, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Pertussis, or Whooping Cough, Tetanus or Varicella, better known as Chicken Pox. Over the last few decades the number of serious illnesses, and deaths attributed to these diseases have decreased significantly. What changed has been one of the biggest Public Health successes in modern history; the development of vaccines, and the establishment of “school shots”, or the requiring of immunizations for the entrance into day cares and schools.  Before these requirements were law for attendance, the closed environment of daycares and schools was a perfect place to spread these sometimes lethal diseases.  Close contact with individuals, who may not even know they are sick yet, can spread diseases quickly. High community- wide immunization rates have limited the number of individuals who are at risk for contracting, and spreading these infections.  As a result, many of these diseases are now well controlled, and are becoming increasingly rare, but not eliminated.

To enroll in Kindergarten it is required by Tennessee State law to provide documented proof of all age appropriate immunizations.   In addition, for the last 3 years students entering 7th grade must provide proof of an updated Immunization Card showing that they have received  both a Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis booster , as well as a  Varicella booster, or proof of having had the Chicken Pox disease.  These vaccine updates are important for the health and safety of each individual child, as well as the community as a whole.  Unfortunately, as important as this is, on the first day of school in 2012 and 2013, nearly half of all 7th graders did not have the required documentation.

In order to help address this and increase awareness, and encourage action, July 7-12 has been designated by the Metropolitan Council as School Immunization Week.   If you are a parent, and have not already done so, contact your medical provider for an appointment to get a well-child checkup including an immunization update for your child. This could easily be the most important thing you mark off your to do list before school starts on August 1, 2013. Help keep all of Davidson County’s children healthy.  Make sure your child is up to date.   The first 1,000 Davidson County 7th grade students, who bring their updated TN Immunization Card, to the Metro Public Health Department’s Lentz Health Center, during School Immunization Week, will receive a free backpack and school supplies.   

Kimberlee Wyche –Etheridge, M.D., MPH
Metro Public Health Department
Director of Family, Youth and Infant Health