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Getting immunizations first homework for students

| Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2003

For most school children the Sponge Bob Square Pants lunch box has been purchased, new Levi Jeans hang in the closet, and according to officials, most children also have all of their proper vaccinations.

In order to start school, children are required to have myriad vaccinations to protect them against everything from measles to polio.

Richard McGarvey, a spokesman for the state health department, said 95-97 percent of children usually come to school with all the proper vaccinations.

"For school we really do do a good job," McGarvey said.

Allegheny County Health Department spokesman Guillermo Cole said in Allegheny County the number is closer to 99 percent.

Lora Tronetti, a nurse at Deer Lakes Middle School said if students come to school without the proper shots they aren't allowed in the district.

But she said in the five years she's been at the school there have been very few children who have come to school without their shots.

"We've had to exclude very few students," she said.

McGarvey said school districts have the option to either let the child start school with proof that they have the intention of visiting a doctor, or like Deer Lakes, the district can tell parents there child is not allowed to start school until they get the vaccinations.

"We're okay either way," McGarvey said.

Cole said there are special circumstances which would allow children to go without vaccinations, such as religious beliefs or medical reasons, but those instances are extremely rare, he said.

Cole recommends that children get vaccinations by their regular pediatricians, but said if parents don't have insurance, they get can get them at the health department free of charge. He said lines at the health department normally swell in August, especially when a new required vaccination is introduced. That was the case a few years ago when a new measles booster vaccination was required.

"If you can't afford to pay for the vaccinations that's no excuse," Cole said.

Both McGarvey and Cole said they recommend that children have most of their vaccinations by the age of 2. But in Pennsylvania only 60 to 70 percent of children actually have the shots by that age, McGarvey said.

Cole said there's a recommended schedule as to when the vaccinations would be given, but some parents don't always follow the schedule.

The two said most vaccinations are at least 95 percent effective. Additional Information:

Required vaccines

Children in grades K-12 who started school before 1997 need the following vaccines:

  • Three doses of tetanus

  • Three doses of diphtheria

  • Three doses of polio

  • Two doses of measles

  • One dose of mumps

  • One dose of rubella (German measles)

    Children entering school need:

  • Four doses each of tetanus and diptheria. One dose in each case on or after the child's fourth birthday

  • Three doses of polio

  • Two doses of measles

  • One dose of mumps

  • One dose of rubella

  • Three doses of hepatitis B

  • One dose of chickenpox, or a history of the disease.

    Children entering seventh grade need:

  • Three doses each of tetanus, diphtheria, polio and hepatitis B

  • Two doses of measles

  • One dose each of mumps and rubella

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