By Clint Cooper
‘A little stick.” “A little pinch.” “It won’t hurt a bit.” “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”
With the start of school just over a month away, doctors and nurses are unpacking their pat lines as thousands of parents bring their children to have their required immunizations.
While private pediatricians routinely provide the vaccines, those who can’t afford them often turn to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department.
“We’re very blessed to have all these options to prevent these diseases,” said Donna Needham, program manager for communicable disease control at the health department. “The reason we can (offer the immunizations for a minimal price) is we are funded by federal money, down through states. It’s a great way to get your shots at an economical price.”
In 2005, the health department provided 6,306 immunizations for school-age children, she said.
Ms. Needham said all was in readiness for parents who plan to bring their children to receive their immunizations.
Below are the immunizations that Tennessee children under 18 are required to receive or are recommended to get:
* DTP/Dta/DT (diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis): A child must have four doses to enter kindergarten, one of which must be given on or after the 4th birthday. If the series is started after age 7, only three doses are required.
* Hepatitis A: Not required for school entry but recommended to be given between 12 and 24 months.
* Hepatitis B: Three doses are required to enter kindergarten. For entry into seventh grade, two or three doses are required, depending on the type of vaccine.
* Influenza: The vaccine is recommended for children 6 to 23 months, their out-of-home caregivers and the household contacts of such children and caregivers; children and teenagers on long-term aspirin therapy; those with chronic conditions such as cancer, lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, immunosuppression and asthma; and those who want to avoid the flu.
* MMR (measles/mumps/rubella): Two doses, given on or after the 1st birthday, are required for entrance into kindergarten. The second dose should be administered at least 30 days after the first dose. Full-time students entering college, if born after 1957, must have had two MMR doses.
* Meningococcal: Parents are recommended to consider the vaccine for their child at age 15 or at college entrance, particular if the student will be living in a dormitory.
* Pneumococcal: The recommended PCV vaccine protects against a type of bacteria that is a common cause of ear infections. The bacteria also can cause more serious illnesses, such as meningitis and bacteremia (infection in the bloodstream). If indicated, infants and toddlers are given four doses of the vaccine. It also may be used in older children at risk for pneumococcal infection.
* Polio: Four doses of OPV or IPV are required to enter kindergarten. If the third dose was given on or after the 4th birthday, the fourth dose is not required. However, if a combination of IPV/OPV is used, all four doses must be given.
V given after the 1st birthday is needed to enter kindergarten. A parent- or physician-diagnosed history of the disease is acceptable in lieu of the vaccine.
HEALTH DEPARTMENT SERVICES
The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department can provide the immunizations required for school or day-care entry. In Tennessee, five visits to an immunization provider are needed for children between the ages of 2 months and 2 years to protect them from 11 serious and potentially deadly diseases.
At the health department, immunizations for children under 18 are given on a walk-in basis. A parent or grandparent with custody must accompany the child. The parent or grandparent with custody must bring the existing immunization record of the child.
The cost of the immunizations depends on the size on the family and ability to pay. No one will be charged more than $20 per person per visit, not matter how many immunizations are given.
Routine adult immunizations such as MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and Td (tetanus/diptheria) are available at all clinic sites, including the Family Health Clinic, 921 E. Third St. (209-8050), and at the Birchwood Clinic, 5623 Highway 60, Birchwood (961-0446); Ooltewah Clinic, 5520 High St. (238-4296), and Sequoyah Clinic, 9527 W. Ridge Trail, Soddy-Daisy (842-3031).
Other adult immunizations available are hepatitis B, hepatitis A, varicella (chicken pox), rabies, meningococcal and influenza and pneumococcal vaccines.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says “however they are formulated or delivered, vaccines ... remain the most effective tool we possess for preventing disease and improving public health in the future,” some parents and health officials across the country believe their use can lead to health disorders. Today, Moms Against Mercury will lead a protest of the effects of the metal in vaccines at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta.