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Immunizations Prevent Disease

For parents with children entering a Kentucky public school for the first time or entering middle school, immunizations and physical exams are a priority.

For most children, the thought of getting stuck with a needle falls somewhere between the categories of doing chores and serving time in detention.

“Parents should prepare their children for immunizations by modeling a positive attitude,” says Grace Maguire, M.D., UK College of Medicine. “Parents should never say, ‘Be good, or the doctor will give you a shot.’”

Instead, parents should emphasize that visiting the doctor is just a part of getting ready to go to school, and offer a reward for good behavior after the appointment.

Shots before beginning school
Most children in the United States begin getting vaccinated in infancy. A current immunization certificate is required for all children who attend licensed daycare or school at any age. When a child enters kindergarten, verification is required to show that the child has had a physical exam within 12 months of entering school and has received the following immunizations: five diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) shots, four doses of polio vaccine (OPV or IPV), two doses of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR), three doses of hepatitis B vaccine (Hep B), and the chicken pox vaccine (varicella).

Those who have previously contracted natural chicken pox are not required to receive the vaccination. An eye exam, performed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist, is also required.

Shots before middle school
Before starting middle school, students must have a physical exam within 12 months of entry, and have their immunizations updated. Kentucky law now requires a tetanus booster at age 11-12 years if it has been at least five years since the last dose of a tetanus-containing vaccine. A physical examination is not required for entry to high school, but immunizations must be current. Most high school students are due for a tetanus booster by age 14-15.

Cost of shots
Before children turn 3 years of age, they will have received about $1,500 worth of shots, Maguire says. For those with preventive care coverage on their insurance, immunizations are typically covered. Those without insurance coverage should check with their local health department to determine if they are eligible for the free federal vaccination program. In addition to the charges for the vaccine, there is usually an injection cost ranging from $5 to $15 per dose.

The earlier parents take note of what is required for school entry, the better, Maguire says. Appointments for physical exams and shots are booked quickly during the months before school starts. If the child is going to see a new health care provider, parents should bring all past records of vaccinations to the appointment.

Adult immunizations
Although there are requirements for school entry, immunizations are not just for children.

“Adults who believe they have not had a childhood disease or its vaccine should check with a physician to determine if a vaccine is recommended,” Maguire says. “An adult who catches chickenpox will probably have a severe case. I’m more worried about an adult contracting chicken pox than a child, as they frequently develop severe pneumonia and some cases will be fatal. Now that a vaccine is available, we should be able to prevent these cases.”

Safety & side effects
Parents are sometimes apprehensive about vaccinating their child, fearing the shot may actually cause a particular illness or will cause harm to their child’s health. Maguire recommends speaking to a physician about concerns, but maintains that vaccinations are safe.

“All vaccines have some relatively mild side effects, but are much safer than the diseases they prevent,” Maguire says. “The rarity of diseases such as polio or measles is due to the successful, widespread use of vaccines. If we become lax on immunization vigilance, these dreaded diseases will return.”

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