by Leslie Horton, Director of Yavapai County Community Health Services
Back to School Already?
It is summertime, and almost everyone is focusing on what to do with their kids during summer break. Some may take fun vacations. Others may just stay home and relax. But if your children are 4 to 6, 11, and/or 16 years old, they will need vaccines. If your children are on an alternative vaccine schedule, they may need vaccines at other ages as well.
Children who are 4 to 6 years of age and following the CDC recommended vaccine schedule will need a fifth dose of DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis), a fourth dose of polio, and second doses of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and varicella (chickenpox).
At 11 years of age, children are required to receive one dose of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis) and a first dose of meningococcal (meningitis). While not a state requirement, it is also recommended for 11 year olds to receive their first dose of HPV (human papillomavirus) with a booster dose six months to one year later.
At age 16, it is recommended children receive a booster dose of meningococcal vaccine and the first dose of the meningococcal B vaccine with a booster one to six months later (the time frame depends on which brand of vaccine is given).
Why is it important to get immunized?
It is no lie that receiving immunizations hurts, and there are minimal side effects from the vaccines such as fever and a sore arm. But developing the actual diseases is much worse. Those of us who remember getting chickenpox, mumps or even measles, know how uncomfortable it was for sometimes weeks on end. In addition, we had to be quarantined and were not able to go anywhere. If we could have just received vaccines, we would have had a sore arm for a couple of days and not missed out on any fun events.
Before the polio vaccine, many people became paralyzed or even died. While polio has since become very rare in the United States, being vaccinated against this horrible disease is still very important to protect yourself and loved ones.
There is a concept called “Community Immunity,” or “Herd Immunity.” Basically, Community Immunity is where a high percentage of the population are vaccinated to protect the few who cannot be vaccinated against certain diseases. If enough people are vaccinated the diseases cannot travel as easily from one person to another, and fewer people will get the diseases. (https://www.vaccines.gov/basics/work/protection)
In Yavapai County, our Community Immunity is at risk. Vaccination rates of children in kindergarten and sixth grade are the lowest compared to all the other counties in Arizona. Fourteen percent of kindergarteners and 15.1% of sixth-graders have filed a personal belief exemption to vaccines. Those rates are the highest among all the counties in Arizona.