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Schools require updated vaccines

Zanya Brown was very chatty Monday about her Dora the Explorer backpack and her new teacher “Miss Stacey.”

She was talkative until the point at which the syringe came out and she realized that she – like countless others throughout the county – were at the Covington County Health Department for a round of immunizations.

As parents and grandparents throughout the county are buying up notebooks, backpacks and tennis shoes in preparation for Mon., Aug. 10 – the first day of the 2009-2010 school year – local physicians’ offices and the county health department are working to inoculate students against the chicken pox, measles, mumps and a variety of unpleasant illnesses.

Dr. Bhagwan Bang of Opp’s South Alabama Pediatrics recommends all children between birth and 18 get vaccinated against “all those childhood illnesses.”

“Immunizations are the best way to protect against most of the childhood illnesses,” Bang said. “There is a lot of talk about shots and autism, but none of the shots now contain mercury. Now, the benefits outweigh the risks.

“In my opinion, (vaccinations) are probably the best invention medically,” he said. “With them, we don’t see diseases like polio and as much chicken pox; however they do exist. If we don’t vaccinate against them, they can come back again.”

Bang said parents often forget about immunizations once children begin school.

“It doesn’t stop when they are a baby,” he said. “The pre-teen group, which is ages 7 up, is often the most overlooked group. This is the age where they get a second dose of the chicken pox vaccine and MMR – we are getting these diseases now in this age group because the immunity drains. That’s why the second dose is so important.”

Bang recommended giving children a dose of pain reliever half an hour before the appointment time.

“Children may run a fever, there’s no way to know,” he said. “The (pain reliever) will help with that, but not the pain. Shots hurt. There’s no getting around that.”

And for those who are new to Covington County who still need to register for the upcoming school year, there are a few things to remember.

“First off, if they are new to the area, they should call ahead to their respective school and let them know they need to register their child,” said Caylea Bonds of the Covington County School System. “It’s nice for the counselors to have a ‘heads up’ that you’re on the way and it gives them an opportunity to make sure they have all the necessary paperwork ready when you arrive.”

Students must live in the specific district that they wish to enroll in, and when registering, parents should bring the following:

Proof of residency such as a utility bill.

Social Security card for the student.

Copy of immunization record, or “Blue Slip.”

Birth certificate.

Copies of school records, if available. Bonds said while not required, this is especially important for students who receive special services and helps expedite the registration process.

The process takes approximately 30-45 minutes to complete.