Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Health Department: Add vaccine to list of back-to-school supplies


July 21, 2009 7:35 AM

The second half of summer is here, and while parents are purchasing school supplies and new clothes, they should also remember to have their children immunized.

California schools must review children's immunization records to ensure that students have received all required shots before entering school.

In 2008, Santa Barbara County kindergartners had an immunization rate of 93.3 percent, according to the county Public Health Department.

Officials say vaccines help control infectious diseases such as chickenpox, hepatitis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio.

Dr. Neil Sullivan of the Eastside Community Clinic Santa Barbara wants parents to understand the importance of these vaccines.

"There's a certain amount of people who don't want their children to have vaccines; the reasoning behind that is kind of new-agey." he said. "My approach on that is that you're being selfish. Help the rest of the world develop immunization."

Vaccines are available through private doctors, community health clinics and health department immunization clinics.

Becoming immunized helps reduce the risk of global viruses, according to Dr. Sullivan.

"We're seeing pertussis right now," he said. "We've seen measles and mumps over the last five years in pockets in the U.S."

Dr. Sullivan said his clinic immunizes about 250 people a month, but that number can double in late August and September.

"Children should not wait until September," he said. "We'll be overbooked once school starts; the sooner the better."

The clinic performs outreach to the community to get immunized on two levels, according to Dr. Sullivan.

"We have a tracking system of children; we check patient profiles to see if they need to come in," he said," and at any visit, we check a child's immunization status."

The Public Health Department also recommends that all children 6 months and older be immunized against seasonal influenza.

Dr. Sullivan supports the department's assertion that a vaccine against H1N1 flu or swine flu will be available in the fall or winter, and public health officials will provide updated information to the community when there are developments.

For more information about California school immunization requirements, vaccines and vaccine preventable diseases, contact a physician or go to getimmunizedca.org.

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