Summer is coming to an end and as teachers, parents and kids are gearing up for the new school year, officials everyone to consider vaccines as part of their back to school prep.

As August brings in the new school year, the month also brings vaccine awareness to communities throughout California. This month is National Immunization Awareness Month and officials want parents to remember the important role of immunization in education.

The California School Immunization Law requires that children be up to date on their immunizations in order to attend any daycare facility or school and local schools have had first-hand experience with communicable diseases.

In 2015, a Santa Monica High School Baseball Coach was diagnosed with measles. That same year 14 infants were ordered quarantined and one of Samohi’s childcare center rooms was closed indefinitely when an outbreak hit the facility. Since then, the district has been on high alert in regards to requiring students to have their vaccine shots.

Senator Bill Allen, a Samohi alumni co-authored Senate Bill 277 which requires vaccinations against measles and whooping cough for nearly all public and private school children including those in daycare.

“Senate Bill 277 became effective in January 2016 requiring students in Kindergarten and 7th grade to have proof of immunizations on file in order to attend school. New students coming in to Santa Monica – Malibu Unified School District must show proof regardless of grade,” said SMMUSD Public Relations Officer, Gail Pinsker. “We are following this law and have seen an increase in immunized students, which is a good result. We do not want to recklessly expose any students to preventable diseases.”

As of July 2016, personal and religious beliefs no longer qualified as exemptions from vaccines in California.

Officials have said unvaccinated children are at increased risk for disease and can spread diseases to others in the playground, childcare centers, classrooms, and communities.

Dr. Karina Maher Pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente’s Santa Monica Medical Offices said that vaccines not only protect your child, but they also help prevent the spread of these diseases to friends and loved ones.

“The diseases that vaccines protect us against can quickly spread among groups of children who are not vaccinated, and their bodies may not be strong enough to fight off the diseases,” said Maher. “Before vaccines, many children actually died from diseases that vaccines not protect them from, such as whooping cough, measles, and polio.”

However, discredited theories linking vaccines to other diseases persist and concerns about autism continue in some communities.

“That claim is not true and has been shown to be false – studies have found no link between vaccines and autism. Vaccines are the best way to prevent serious illness and the spread of preventable diseases,” said Maher.

After a vaccine, she said most children feel fine and go right back to their usual routine. Sometimes children have mild reactions, such as a sore arm, swelling at the site of the shot, mild skin rash, or a low fever. Some babies may be fussy or sleepy afterward.

Maher said serious side effects are very rare. She said parents should keep in mind that the risks of having mild side effects from the shots are minimal compared to the risk of getting seriously ill from a preventable disease.

“If you have questions or concerns about vaccines, please talk to your child’s pediatrician before making a decision about vaccinations,” said Maher. “We, as pediatricians, are here to take care of your children, and believe one of the most crucial ways to keep your kids, their families and the community healthy throughout the school year is to get their vaccines. Kids are ready to get back to school, hang out with friends and enjoy daycare centers.”

marina@smdp.com

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