As children enjoy their summer break, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) encourages parents to check their children's immunization records now to make sure their children are up-to-date before the new school year begins.
“We suggest parents avoid the long lines at county health departments and physician offices in late summer for back-to-school immunizations,” said Bobbie Nubine, chief, OSDH Immunization Service. “Oklahoma law mandates that children must be up-to-date on their required immunizations to begin the new school year. These immunizations protect against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps, rubella, polio, varicella (chickenpox), hepatitis B and hepatitis A,” she said.
In addition, Nubine said parents of adolescents should note that a booster dose of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough vaccine) is now required for all students entering the seventh and eighth grades.
Parents of adolescents are also urged to ask their health care provider or clinic about the vaccine to prevent bacterial meningitis, (MCV4 vaccine) and the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) when their children receive the Tdap booster. Although these vaccines are not required for school, they are the best protection available against some types of bacterial meningitis and human papillomavirus.
Teenagers planning on going to college may be required to have the meningococcal vaccine and they can receive the first dose of it with their Tdap booster at 11 to 12 years of age. The MCV4 is required in Oklahoma for first-time college students who plan to live in on-campus dormitories or other on-campus housing facilities.
Most private health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines. Parents are encouraged to check with their health care provider or insurance provider to find out which vaccines and vaccine services are covered by their plans.
Children who don’t have health insurance or whose insurance doesn’t cover vaccines may receive vaccines at any county health department in Oklahoma through the “Vaccines for Children” (VFC) Program. To qualify for this program, a child must be eligible to receive SoonerCare, be an American Indian or Alaskan Native, or be uninsured or underinsured. Underinsured means a child has health insurance, but it doesn’t cover all or some vaccines, or there is a fixed dollar limit or cap for vaccines. Once that fixed dollar amount has been reached, a child is eligible.
Many private health care providers also participate in the VFC program. There is no fee for the cost of VFC vaccine for eligible children; however, a provider may charge a fee to administer the vaccine. Children do not have to enroll in the program. Parents can simply tell the health care provider how they qualify.
“Immunizations are essential for the health of our children because without them we would experience disease outbreaks in our schools and communities every year,” Nubine said. “Vaccines are a safe and effective way to help protect children, families, and our communities from diseases that routinely caused death and disability in the past,” she added.
For more information on immunization requirements for school-aged children as well as recommended vaccines for every age, visit the OSDH Immunization Service web page at http://imm.health.ok.gov or call at (800) 234-6196.