Parents focused on back to school shopping should not forget they also need to make sure their kids have all their shots.
State law requires parents submit a Certificate of Immunization Status (CIS) that shows immunizations are up to date before their kids can start classes in public school, pre-school and day care. The shots start at birth and now include a TDaP requirement for incoming sixth graders to protects against pertussis, or whooping cough.
A State Health Department website offers parents all the information they need about immunization requirements.
As a practical matter, parents have 30 days to get caught up. Katie Johnson, health services supervisor with the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, says parents can also get an exemption from the vaccination requirement. But it has to be signed by a health care provider who must give parents information about the benefits of immunizations and risks of skipping them.
"In many cases, the act of having to go to a provider to have the form filled out reduces the number of parents who take the exemption for convenience, only," said Johnson. Parents can get free or low-cost immunizations.
The latest state figures show between 85 and 95 percent of kindergartners are up to date on vaccinations. Johnson says schools rely on herd immunization, the fact that most kids have their shots.
"If the majority of students have their immunizations completed, even if someone brings in infection, it's not going to spread as quickly because it will stop when it gets to the students who have the immunization," Johnson explained.
But herd immunization is not foolproof, as we learned during last year's pertussis outbreak.
"A few babies actually died from pertussis because they were not old enough to have gotten the full dose of pertussis immunization, just because of their age," said Johnson.
Parents considering the vaccination exemption should remember these are serious illnesses. "I think most people in our generation, who grew up with immunizations, don't remember the numbers of children who had conditions like polio or diphtheria. Even measles can be very serious."