Officials encourage back-to-school vaccinations

ALBANY, Ga. -- With the 2013-14 school year just around the corner, there is one thing that should not be overlooked when preparing children to go back to school -- their vaccinations.

In light of this, the Southwest Public Health District is encouraging parents and guardians to get those vaccinations taken care of before the back-to-school rush begins.

"The state of Georgia has specific immunization requirements for all children entering our schools and daycare facilities," said Rebecca Snow, the district's immunization coordinator, in a news release. "The vaccinations are for the protection of your children, other family members, classmates and staff they come into contact with and the community at large.

"Vaccinations can be administered by your county health department or by your private health care provider. The important thing to know is that vaccinations are considered to be the most successful and cost-effective public health tools parents can use to help protect their children against dangerous vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles, mumps, whooping cough and pneumonia."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that every infant born in the United States should receive immunizations against 14 diseases by the time they are 2 years old.

"Don't wait until the last minute to get your child vaccinated," Snow said. "Take care of it now so that you will have your immunization records in order and one less thing to worry about when classes start. Your county health department will be happy to assist you if you have questions and to help ensure your child's immunization records are up-to-date."

The immunization schedule for school-aged children posted on the Georgia Department of Public Health website shows that the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP/Tdap) vaccine is needed at 4-6 years of age and 11-12 years of age. The polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and chickenpox vaccines are needed at 4-6 years of age. The vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) is recommended at 11-12 years of age, around the age a child is also expected to have received the meningococcal conjugate (MCV4) vaccine.

"Catch-up" periods are available through age 18 for the Hepatitis B vaccine, as well as the DTaP/Tdap, polio, MMR, chickenpox, Hepatitis A, MCV4 and HPV vaccines, the website shows.

For more information on age-specific vaccines, visit http://health.state.ga.us/programs/immunization/schools.asp.

Most school systems in the area will be starting school again in the next three weeks. The Terrell and Worth County school systems start on July 29, Dougherty County starts Aug. 5, Baker County on Aug. 7 and Lee County on Aug. 9.