SAMOHI — Kids across town are already back in school, putting pen to paper and studying for their next test. But, parents, take note. There’s still time to get your kids vaccinated and turn in the necessary forms.
The rush to get vaccinations for younger kids and adolescents tends to be in August, right around the back to school rush, said Denise Sur, chief of staff at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center.
“The schools are probably our best sources to make sure things happen and they do say they have to be vaccinated before they come,” said Sur, who is a family medicine doctor.
Unless diseases are eliminated, it’s important to keep immunizing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines reduce the risk of infection by working with the body’s natural defenses to help it safely develop immunity to disease. Some diseases like polio and diphtheria are becoming very rare in the U.S. because there have been vaccinations against them.
At Santa Monica High School, which has more than 3,000 kids enrolled, officials send out forms just before the school year begins, but not every parent follows through.
Lu Anne Reed, the licensed vocational nurse who deals with parents and vaccinations at Samohi, said she’s working with approximately four parents who are trying to get their forms in, and worked with 10 parents in the last two weeks.
“We still get kids registering and [are] still getting new students,” Reed said.
In addition to sending letters to parents, phone calls are made, she said.
Under state law, it is mandatory for students in grades seven though 12 to be vaccinated with the Tdap booster before they start school, which covers tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, commonly known as the whooping cough. The requirements are usually three doses for ages 7 to 17 years if at least one dose was on or after the second birthday, Reed said. If the last dose was given before the second birthday, one more Tdap is required. Students need to have had at least one Tdap since the age of 7.
“(Whooping cough) can really do damage,” Reed said. “The adults can get through it but the minute you notice it’s lingering and hear the sound, get to the doctor and they give you an antibiotic for it and takes care of it.”
Reed said when parents refuse to get their child vaccinated, and if the child has had a history of vaccinations, the school sends them to free clinics, if the parents agree. If not, parents have to get a waiver. Some parents choose not to because of their religious beliefs.
Reed said the most important vaccines are the Tdap and the chicken pox vaccine, if the students come from out of state. For chicken pox, the school only needs one dose for children under 13, and two doses for out-of-state kids, Reed said.
“Students coming from middle schools are usually up to date and Tdap is the one we end up finding at age 7 they didn’t get,” Reed said. “There are some that slip through the cracks.”
Other vaccines include the polio vaccine, where three doses meet the requirement for ages 7 to 17 years of age, if at least one was given on or after the second birthday, Reed said.
Then there’s mumps, measles and rubella, or the MMR vaccine, which students need one dose of on or after the first birthday for most grade levels.
For Hepatitis B, three doses are required at any age, Reed said.
Most parents are trying their best when it comes to vaccinations, Sur said.
“I don’t think they have an intention to do anything wrong or unsafe,” she said.
However, there are parents who may choose to forego vaccinations for their children and use a waiver due to personal or religious beliefs, Reed said.
“It’s their way of living life,” she said.
That’s coming up more often than it did 20 years ago, Sur said.
“There were fewer vaccines … . I think there’s also been a disservice for folks because there’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Sur said. “People assume [if] they find it on a website, it’s valid. It’s not valid information.”
If vaccinating stopped, diseases that are almost unknown would stage a comeback, according to the CDC website.
Sur said everyone has the right to refuse to get vaccinations, but that brings up health issues. For example, she said if parents refuse the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine for their child, that child will go on to impact other kids and that’s when outbreaks happen.
Reed said some parents don’t believe in vaccinations, but it’s a small percentage.
“A lot of them are totally willing and do it,” Reed said.