Parents encouraged to make sure student immunizations are current

Some required before children can begin classes

— Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Courtney Sogard Hamilton County Public Health nurse Dawn Trujillo looks at vaccines stored in the agency’s cooler. She urged parents to be sure children’s immunizations are up-to-date.

Starting the school year can be stressful for parents, gathering all of their children’s school supplies, making sure they have all of their important forms in order. One of these vital forms required by state law in order for incoming kindergartners, 7th graders, and seniors to begin school, is the Iowa Department of Public Health Certificate of Immunization. This form will track all immunizations your child has obtained throughout their life and whether they are up-to-date with their vaccinations before entering into the new school year. Vaccinations are entered into a state-wide database, known as the Iowa Registry Information System (IRIS), in which all Iowa schools, registered daycares, and some pharmacies use to insure each child has obtained the state required immunizations.

“Each state has their own required immunizations, that by law, each child must have before being permitted to start school,” said Hamilton County Public Health nurse, Dawn Trujillo.

Focusing on the required immunizations for Secondary Schools, parents will be contacted if their child has not obtained the proper immunizations by the school nurse. The two required immunizations needed for incoming 7th graders, is the Tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine and the Meningococcal (Meningitis) vaccine. There was a need for the Tdap vaccination to be administered at the 7th grade level due to a higher number of cases of whooping cough, which the pertussis portion of the Tdap vaccine helps to prevent. It wasn’t until recent years that the State of Iowa required 7th graders to get the meningococcal vaccine this early, but it was determined during the 2016 legislative session that adolescents are most likely the main cause for the transmittance of the meningococcal disease, which led to the reasoning behind the new requirement. This will help to ensure students will be better protected during their time at school.

Incoming seniors are only required to obtain the meningococcal vaccine, but for most seniors this will be their 1st dose of the vaccination. The requirement is a new law, so some of the incoming seniors would not have received the 1st dose of the meningococcal vaccine when they had been entering into their 7th grade year. The requirement states that 2 doses of the meningococcal vaccine must have been received by students entering 12th grade, who were born after Sept.15, 1999; or 1 dose if received when the student is 16 years of age or older.

In a day when parents are choosing to forgo required vaccinations, there are extenuating circumstances that could lead to students not receiving their immunizations. The parent would legally have to provide either a religious waiver, meaning the immunizations go against their beliefs, or a medical waiver, which is harder to come by and would most likely be used only in the case of an allergic reaction to the vaccinations themselves. When children have not obtained the state mandated immunizations and there is an outbreak at school, the unvaccinated students are immediately sent home for their own protection, Trujillo said.

Vaccinations are covered through most insurance providers, but the Iowa Department of Public Health provides a program called Vaccines for Children, in which children may be eligible in receiving these state required immunizations. To qualify for this program, the VFC states the child must fall within one of the categories listed below:

• Enrolled in Medicaid (copy of MCO member ID card required)

• Uninsured-no health insurance coverage

• American Indian or Alaskan Native (AI/AN)

• Underinsured (has health insurance that does not pay for vaccinations) (copy of insurance card or name/policy number required).

Families in need of immunizations, can make an appointment to be seen at the local Hamilton County Public Health on Wednesday afternoons or on the second Wednesday evening of every month until 6 p.m.