Immunizations important for schoolchildren

Published 8:10 pm Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Many parents may be unaware that it is state law that all children entering school — not just those entering kindergarten — must be up-to-date on their immunizations.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, the vaccinations currently required for school entry are polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox. The Hib, or Haemo-philus Influenzae Type b, vaccine is required for daycare as well.

Dr. Charles Eldridge, a pediatrician at Covington Pediatrics, said the benefits of immunizations far outweigh the suspected side effects associated with their uses.

“If you look at children and adolescents over time, we don’t see meningitis,” Eldridge said. “We see very little chicken pox. We haven’t had a documented case of red measles in Covington County in 15 years. There is no polio in the United States; virtually no diphtheria.

“The instances of diseases that have either dramatically declined or have been virtually eliminated are staggering, all because of the use of vaccinations,” he said. “So I would have to say that it is terribly important that children receive their immunizations.”

Eldridge said there still remains some controversy among parents on potential side effects or harmful after effects of immunizations.

“There are times where people have tried to link immunizations to emerging pathology, especially neurological issues,” he said. “There really isn’t any data out there to support that. It used to be the vaccines had mercury in them. Not anymore, not the ones we give here.

“Parents need to remember that it’s OK to ask questions about the vaccinations your child is about to receive,” he said. “You shouldn’t be herded through the office and not know what your child is being immunized against.”

Parents need to present documentation on the Certificate of Immunization or “blue slip” to the school showing the month, day and year that their child received their vaccinations.

A new requirement for students entering the seventh grade for the 2008-2009 school term is that they show documentation either of the date they had chicken pox disease or the date they received the varicella vaccine that protects against chicken pox.

Adolescents and college students should be vaccinated, also. Parents should make sure their adolescents and young adult children heading off to college are up to date on MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), varicella, and hepatitis A and B vaccines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends that preteens and adolescents get the following immunizations:

Tdap which provides protection against pertussis (whooping cough) along with tetanus and diphtheria.

Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) which protects against invasive meningococcal disease.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for preteen and adolescent girls to prevent cervical cancer in adulthood.

For more information, contact your medical provider or the Covington County Health Department. Additional information about school immunization requirements for children can be accessed at the Alabama Department of Public Health Web site: