DARKE COUNTY — August is National Immunization Awareness Month.
National Immunization Awareness Month was established to encourage people of all ages to make sure they are up to date on the vaccines. For the Adult population, the Darke County Health Department continues to offer needed immunizations. Vaccines available are: Tdap, Zostavax (Shingles), Meningococcal B, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, HPV9 (Gardasil), MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella), Prevnar 13, Pneumovax 23, and Varicella (Chickenpox). The nursing staff will assist in determining if folks qualify for these vaccines, provided at a very reduced cost. Members of the Immunization Advocacy Network of Ohio encourage parents and guardians to check their child’s vaccination records and schedule appointments for any back to school immunizations now. Experts want to remind parents and guardians that waiting until classes are ready to start, can make it difficult to make an appointment with their child’s pediatrician or health center.
Darke County schools are starting soon; some as early as August 14. According to Registered Nurse and Immunization Coordinator Coordinator of the Darke County General Health District Sue Rismiller, the Darke County Health Department is encouraging all parents of children entering kindergarten, seventh or 12th grade, to get required immunizations, prior to the start of the new school year. Typical kindergarten immunizations are: MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella), Chickenpox, DTaP (Diptheria, Tetanus, Pertussis—whooping cough) and IPV (Polio). These are the requirements for school entry, provided the child is currently up to date with infant vaccinations. Ohio law requires children entering seventh grade to have Tdap (Tetanus, Diptheria, Pertussis) and Meningococcal (MCV4) vaccines, one dose of each. For all 12th-grade students this fall, the minimum requirement for school entrance is one dose of Meningococcal (MCV4) vaccine, after age 16 years. Rismiller said that while many children receive their school immunizations on time, some wait until the last minute.
“The nurses do such a good job, as each school nurse in charge of monitoring students’ immunizations,” Rismiller said. “It is hard for them because that is a lot to keep track of, including following up with those who are not compliant.”
Executive Director of the Ohio Association of School Nurses Dzidra Brown is a registered nurse and licensed school nurse, with master’s degrees in both education and nursing. Brown was a school nurse for 34 years in Perry County, and worked with immunizations from day one.
“It is so important what an impact immunization can make on our children’s’ health,” she said.
As a school nurse, one of her duties was to make sure the school children were compliant in their immunizations. Part of that was sending a field report to the Ohio Department of Health, by October 15 every year, to show the school’s immunization status. This takes a lot of work, she said.
“The requirements for vaccines change over the years,” she said. “We have to be aware of those laws. In addition, laws vary from state to state and as new students come into the district, we have to make sure they are compliant.”
Brown said one reason parents may be reluctant to have their children immunized, is because they can not remember or have not come into contact with some of the diseases.
“I can remember polio,” Brown said. “I remember a friend, and we all prayed for her and it came out that she was OK, but it was just so horrible. Then when they came out with the vaccine, which was a drink then, we all lined up and the parents supported it.”
Parents are allowed to opt their children out of immunizations for philosophical and or religious reasons, according to Brown. She blames false media messages for some of the reluctance.
“But, if there is an outbreak for measles or something, those children will be excluded from schools,” she said. “I found this very difficult in my school, which was K-12 under one roof. I had two families that opted out, and in both of those families the mothers were nurses. I found that very strange. I am all for prevention, and I hope we can turn this around. A lot of work is being done regarding immunizations, such as meningitis that can be prevented, and (human papillomavirus) HPV is now is an option. People that carry HPV can be vaccinated, and hopefully will not pick up cervical cancer when they are adults. Lots of people do not look at their children as adults, but the reality is those children probably will be in relationships and have children one day. If you can prevent cervical cancer, what a great gift you are giving that child.”