Prevent disease, immunize kids

School doesn’t start for another month, but it’s already time to start prepping for the upcoming year. In addition to the annual shopping for notebooks, folders and pencils, health care officials are urging parents to add one more thing to their summer to-do lists: Get the kids their shots - and quickly.

Cases of whopping cough, the flu and chicken pox occurred in Washington state last year. Last month multiple people died from whopping cough in California, and currently Vancouver, B.C. is dealing with a measles outbreak.

As Debbie Lacy, a registered nurse of the Pediatrics Associates of Whidbey Island put it, sickness is always just an airplane trip away.

“We think these diseases are gone because we don’t see them on a daily basis,” she said, “but that’s not the case.”

According to the Washington State Department of Health, students in kindergarten through ninth grade are required to be vaccinated against whooping cough. Kindergartners, first graders and second graders need two doses of the chicken pox vaccine, unless a health care official can provide documentation saying they’ve already had the disease.

Children starting third, fourth and sixth grades need one dose of the chicken pox vaccine. Additionally, before sixth grade, children should be immunized against measles, mumps and rubella, Hepatitis A and B and Meningococcal.

“We tend to take vaccines for granted and we forget that kids used to die from these diseases every day,” Lacy said. “If we don’t keep vaccinating, we’re going to see these diseases rear their ugly heads.”

Though vaccines aren’t 100 percent effective, Lacy said they’re certainly the best means of disease prevention.

She recommends that parents set up times as soon as possible to get their children’s vaccinations updated.

She said many people have already begun booking appointments and there are few left.

“It never fails that the first day of school we’re inundated with calls,” Lacy said, “and a lot of times we can’t do it spur of the moment after school starts because we’re so swamped.”

Students under the age of 19 can get all school and child care recommended vaccines for free through the state’s Childhood Vaccine Program.

Providers may still charge an administrative or office visit fee, but it can be waived for those people who cannot afford it.

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