While Sacramento's children burn through their final weeks of summer freedom, school officials are urging parents to prepare for the school year by getting kindergartners and seventh-graders their proper immunizations.
Schools are required to check each child's immunization record, usually given to parents by a health care provider.
"Because children are together in close proximity in school, playing and sharing tools and food, coughing, maybe not washing their hands as often as adults, they're vulnerable to becoming ill and spreading it," said Kate McAuley, immunization program coordinator for Sacramento County.
Children can be exempt from immunization requirements if their parents sign a statement saying immunization is against their beliefs or if a physician says immunization is not safe for a child, according to the California Department of Education.
Kindergartners should get five doses of vaccine for DTaP – diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) – four doses of polio vaccine, three doses for hepatitis B, two doses for MMR – measles, mumps and rubella – and one dose for varicella, or chickenpox.
Seventh-graders should have one dose of Tdap (tetanus, reduced diphtheria and acellular pertussis booster) and two doses for MMR.
Gabe Ross, chief communications officer for the Sacramento City Unified School District, said most parents are aware of the immunization requirements for their children.
"When you have changes to immunization policy, like we saw a couple years ago with state Tdap requirements, there can be challenges," Ross said. "But generally parents hear about immunization requirements not just from schools but from physicians and health care providers."
Tami Silvera, project implementer for the Elk Grove Unified School District, said nurses in the district send letters to parents on what shots are required, and they call families about a week or two before school as a reminder.
Silvera said the Elk Grove district hosts immunization clinics several times a year for families that meet certain requirements.
There are options available for families who do not have insurance to receive immunizations.
The Enrollment Center Immunization Clinic is available for qualifying students in the Sacramento City Unified district. The clinic is open Mondays and Wednesdays through Aug. 26, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but is closed for lunch from noon to 12:30 p.m. Families should bring the student's immunization records to the clinic.
However, if families have any type of insurance – even if it doesn't cover vaccines or has a co-pay – the clinic recommends they contact their regular provider for immunization services.
Sacramento County also has an Immunization Assistance Program, which helps children 18 years and younger if they do not have health insurance, if their health insurance does not cover immunizations, if they are eligible for Medi-Cal, Child Health and Disability Prevention Program or Gateway or if they are an Alaskan native or American Indian.
Program hours are from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Wednesdays.
Yolo County is also reminding its families about immunization requirements, and the Yolo County Health Department has information about free or low-cost immunizations. The department also offers a children's immunization clinic for families that qualify for the Vaccines for Children program. Children without health insurance for immunizations or who are on Medi-Cal can get shots from the Yolo County Health Department.
"Parents should tell children that the shots are to help them stay healthy and not get sick," McAuley said. "Maybe a shot hurts for a couple of minutes, but that's much less than getting sick or feeling bad or having consequences that last a long time."
Immunization resources for families who do not have insurance.
Sacramento City Unified School District:
The Enrollment Center Immunization Clinic
Contact: (916) 643-2400
Location: 5601 47th Ave.
Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays through Aug. 26 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed for lunch from noon to 12:30 p.m.
Sacramento County Immunization Assistance Program
Contact: (916) 875-7468
Location: 4600 Broadway
1 p.m.-3:30 p.m.
Yolo County Health Department
Contact: (530) 666-8562PUBLIC HEALTH
Call The Bee's Morgan Searles at (916) 321-1102. Follow her on Twitter @MorganSearles.