07/05/09 — Summer good time to update vaccines

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Summer good time to update vaccines

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 5, 2009 9:11 AM

Summer is a good time to catch up on immunizations, officials at the county Health Department say.

As parents prepare to send children off to school, students enroll in college and health care workers shore up for another flu season, shot records should also be updated.

"Every year the same campaign goes on -- August is National Immunization Awareness Month," said Debbie Garner, immunizations coordinator at the Health Department. "The state picks this time of year to increase awareness for everybody -- from infants to the elderly."

It's a simple process, she said.

"Stop, think about immunizations, look at your records and see what you think you might need, come in and get it," she said.

Most likely, this season's outbreak of swine flu has "perked people up about vaccinations," she said. That plus the fact that the statistics can be alarming.

"Complications from vaccine-preventable diseases cause more than 30,000 adult deaths each year, and flu and pneumonia are the fifth leading cause of death in older Americans," Ms. Garner said.

Children are also particularly vulnerable to infection, with most of their vaccines given within the first five or six years of life, she said.

For a complete list of vaccines for babies, as well as a timeline for when they are administered, she recommended checking out the state's Web site, www.immun izenc.com/Parents.htm.

Meanwhile, there are several vaccines that should be given during the coming months.

The T-Dap -- tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis -- for instance, is mandatory for students entering sixth grade.

"Children should be coming in now for their T-Dap while they're off for the summer," she explained. "They have 30 days from the time school starts to get the shot or they'll be kicked out of school."

Students enrolling in college for the first time after July 1, 2008, must also have documentation of having T-Dap, she added.

T-Dap is available at the Health Department at no charge to anyone from ages 10 to 64. Tetatus, Ms. Garner noted, has been around for years. With recent outbreaks of whooping cough, the concern arose for the addition of pertussis.

Flu shots will be available starting in October. Health officials right now are uncertain what form they will take or how many will be available to the public.

Another vaccine that is gaining prominence is Zostavax, the shingles vaccine, Ms. Garner said.

"You have to be 65 before you can get it. It is just for the elderly," she said, explaining that there are a lot of criteria involved with the vaccine. "They pay for it, then we order it. It's so costly, that's the only way we can do it. We don't bill insurance here."

Also, she pointed out, all the required vaccinations for children 18 and under are offered free of charge.

The process is made easier by the fact that the Health Department offers a regular walk-in clinic. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 7-11:30 a.m., 1-5 p.m.

For more information, call 731-1272 or 705-6544.