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Back-to-school vaccinations to be offered Saturday

ALBANY, Ga. -- While parents are completing back-to-school shopping for their children, there is another issue that shouldn't be overlooked.

With the new school year approaching, the Dougherty County Health Department is aiming to help parents ensure their children meet state immunization requirements while avoiding the last-minute back-to-school rush by hosting a back-to-school vaccination clinic Saturday.

The clinic is scheduled for 9 a.m.-2 p.m. The goal is to make it easier for parents and guardians coping with hectic schedules and full-time jobs to ensure their kids meet state immunization requirements.

"It's to provide immunizations so kids can be admitted without being put back out, and to make parents aware of (immunization requirements)," said Suzette Profit, immunization coordinator for the health department.

The clinic can benefit any parent who would like to beat the last-minute back-to-school vaccination rush, which officials strongly encourage.

"The state of Georgia says: 'No shots, no school,' and this is the only Saturday clinic we have prior to school starting," Profit said.

Parents who are unable to take advantage of the clinic are advised to bring their children to their private provider or the health department soon to make sure they've met all their immunization requirements.

In the Dougherty County School System, the first day of school is Aug. 1.

The required vaccines protect children against diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, haemophilus influenzae B, measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, varicella (chickenpox), polio and pneumococcal disease.

In 2007, there were changes to the state law regarding vaccinations, including:

-- Children less than 5 years of age attending child care facilities, Head Start or pre-K are to receive the pneumococcal and hepatitis A vaccines or provide serologic proof of immunity;

-- Children entering kindergarten, sixth grade or new entrants into any grade are to receive a second dose of the mumps vaccine or provide serologic proof of immunity and have a second dose of the varicella vaccine or provide proof of serologic immunity or health care provider documentation of disease history.

Saturday's clinic is not just for students in grades K-12. "We get college students, too," Profit said.

The health department was not able hold such a clinic last year, but it was conducted the previous year.

"The year we did it, the response was great," Profit recalled.

Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death. They help protect vaccinated individuals and also help protect communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.

Georgia provides state-subsidized vaccines for Medicaid patients, PeachCare patients, uninsured children and others at a fee.

"The charges (for the vaccinations) will be based on patient eligibility," Profit said. "It could be $20, it could be $200. It depends on the person's health insurance coverage."

To learn more, contact the Dougherty County Health Department or visit www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org.