August is National Immunization Awareness Month and the Newton County Health Department would like to emphasize that immunizations, at every age, provide life-saving protection for our whole community. This article is the first in a four part series to increase awareness about the importance of vaccinations -- from back to school requirements to the flu season.
With back-to-school activities in full swing across Newton County, the Health Department would like to remind parents and college students to add vaccinations to their back-to-school checklists. Here's a quick look at what parents need to know about immunizations for a kindergartener heading to school for the first time, or a student readying for elementary, middle or high school – and even college.
Know the vaccine schedule and stick to it. Getting vaccinated according to the recommended immunization schedule is one of the most important things a parent can do to protect their child’s health. The Health Department offers every vaccine listed on the current vaccine schedule which you can view and download by visiting www.gnrhealth.com/child-immunization.
Every child entering into the Georgia school system (Kindergarten - 12th grade), or a child care facility is required by law to be protected against 12 diseases. Students must have a Georgia Certificate of Immunization, Form 3231. The Health Department will document all new immunizations on this form or can transfer previous immunizations on the form for a small fee.
All students born on or after January 1, 2002 and entering, advancing or transferring into 7th grade in Georgia needs proof of an adolescent pertussis (whooping cough) booster vaccination (called “Tdap”) and an adolescent meningococcal vaccination (“MCV4”). The HPV, chickenpox, and influenza vaccines are also recommended for preteens and teens.
Living in close quarters can put college students at higher risk for spreading disease. Students living in residence halls should be vaccinated with the meningococcal conjugate (meningitis) vaccine. If they received this vaccine before their 16th birthday, a booster dose is recommended before going to college for maximum protection.
For more information about the importance of school age vaccinations, visit the Health Department website at www.gnrhealth.com or the Centers for Disease Control website at www.cdc.gov/vaccines.
Sarah Neale is the Health Communications Coordinator for the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments. With a Masters of Public Health and as a Certified Health Education Specialist, Ms. Neale creates educational and outreach material for local health departments across three communities.