By BOB LAMENDOLA
Special to South Florida Times
Summer vacation passes quickly, so parents are wise to start thinking about back-to-school immunizations for the kids.
Florida Department of Health (DOH) offices in South Florida are planning immunization efforts to help parents who do not take their children to family doctors, which is the best way to be vaccinated.
“Vaccines have helped us wipe out diseases that used to kill our children by the thousand. But a few cases are starting to appear
among unvaccinated children,” says Dr. Paula
Thaqi, director of DOH-Broward. “Parents who want to protect their children fully should have them immunized.”
Public schools open on Aug. 17 in Palm Beach and Aug. 24 in Broward and Miami-Dade. Florida law says children cannot start school unless they received vaccinations that protect against nine contagious and potentially fatal childhood diseases. Every year, parents and school officials get headaches when children cannot be admitted because of missing vaccinations.
To help them, DOH gives free immunizations paid for by the federal Vaccines for Children program:
DOH-Broward – All recommended immunizations are offered at DOH health centers. In addition, free shots will be given from August 10 to 25 at Lauderhill Mall, 1267 NW 40 Ave., including an outreach event and health fair on Saturday, August 22. For details, visit www.broward.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-
services/clinical-and-nutrition-services/immunizations/index.html or call 954-467-4705.
DOH-Palm Beach – Immunizations are offered at DOH health centers and by a mobile van. For hours and locations, visit www.palmbeach.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/clinical-and-nutrition-services/immunizations/index.html or call 561-840-4568.
DOH-Miami-Dade – Immunizations are offered at DOH health centers and in the community. For hours and
locations, visit www.miamidade.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/clinical-and-nutrition-services/immunizations/index.html or call 786-845-0550.
Immunizations are especially important for children entering kindergarten and seventh grade, because different requirements begin at those grade levels. Vaccinations required for school include:
• Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) – Four or five doses of DTaP vaccine is given to babies and pre-schoolers. One additional dose, Tdap, is given before seventh grade.
• Polio – Three to five doses of vaccine is given to babies and pre-schoolers.
• Measles, mumps, rubella (German measles) – Two doses of MMR vaccine is given to babies and pre-schoolers.
• Chickenpox – Two doses of vaccine is given to babies and pre-schoolers. One additional dose is given before seventh grade. Among adults, the virus can re-emerge and cause the painful skin condition called shingles.
• Hepatitis B – Three doses of vaccine is given to babies.
In addition, federal health officials recommend several other immunizations not required for school. These include vaccines against flu (every year starting at age six months), rotavirus (three doses for babies), Haemophilus influenzae B (three to four doses for babies), pneumococcal disease (four doses for babies), hepatitis A (two doses for babies), human papilloma virus (three doses at age 11 or older) and meningococcal disease (two doses at age 11 or older).
Bob LaMendola is a communications officer with the Florida Department of Health in Broward County