Keep children from kindergarten to high school safe this school year by making sure all immunizations are up to date.
"Immunizations are a very safe and effective way to keep children performing at their best and to prevent dangerous diseases, some of which cannot be cured," said Dorothy Teeter, interim director and health officer for Public Health-Seattle & King County.
Besides increasing the risk of getting a disease, a child who is not fully immunized may be excluded from attending school or day care during an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease, possibly lasting weeks. An infected child can also spread an illness to others, like those whose immune systems are suppressed, pregnant women or infants.
"In recent years, we've had outbreaks involving schools that could have been prevented with vaccines," said Betsy Hubbard, Public Health's immunization supervisor. "In one measles outbreak, half of the cases involved school age children who were not appropriately immunized. These outbreaks are dangerous and disrupt the lives of local families."
This year, children entering kindergarten and sixth grade will need to get their varicella vaccine for chickenpox or prove that they have had the disease.
Some school grades have new vaccine requirements this fall. Hepatitis B vaccine is now required for students enrolled in kindergarten through ninth grade. Students entering kindergarten through 12th grade will be asked to show proof that they have received two doses of Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine. As an alternative, proof of having two doses of measles-containing vaccine, one dose of mumps-containing vaccine and one dose of rubella-containing vaccine is acceptable.
State law requires children to have specific immunizations before they attend school. For a complete list of required school immunizations, visit Public Health's Back to School Immunizations Web page, www.metrokc.gov/health/immunization/school.htm.
Regular health care providers offer childhood immunizations. For information on special back-to-school immunization clinics in King County as well as Public Health immunization clinic sites, addresses and phone numbers, visit the Back to School Immunizations Web page or call the Public Health Communicable Disease Information Line, 206-296-4949. Public Health clinics provide childhood vaccines on a sliding fee scale. No child is turned away without receiving the required vaccines due to an inability to pay.
Parents should check immunization records to confirm that immunizations are up to date. Parents are requested to bring immunization records with them to the doctor's office.
Parents or legal guardians have the right to choose not to immunize their children, based on medical, religious or philosophical reasons. Parents or legal guardians must sign the appropriate box on the Certificate of Immunization Status form to exempt their child from receiving vaccines required for school entry.
There is a significant risk, however, when choosing against vaccination, according to health officials. If exposed to a vaccine-preventable disease, they say, a child may become infected or may be excluded from attending school or child care during the outbreak.