Special to The Dallas Examiner
Dallas County students will be headed back to school soon and pediatricians recommend that parents include their children’s immunizations on their back-to-school to-do lists.
Parents can bring their children to one of Parkland Health & Hospital System’s Community Oriented Primary Care health centers, Youth and Family centers or DCHHS Immunization Clinic located throughout Dallas County.
In Texas, before entering kindergarten, children are required to be vaccinated for diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis; polio; measles, mumps, rubella; hepatitis B; varicella; and hepatitis A. Children in day care must also be vaccinated.
For older students, a diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis booster and meningococcal vaccines are required for school.
Young children, preteens and teens need immunizations to stay healthy throughout the school year.
“Vaccines protect against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, including meningitis and cancers caused by HPV infections,” said Barbara Durso, M.D., lead staff physician at Parkland’s Oak West Health Center.
In 2017, 94 cases of mumps were reported in Dallas County schools.
“Viral diseases like mumps are spread by droplets of saliva or mucus of an infected person, usually by someone’s coughs or sneezes or by sharing food and drink. That’s why vaccination and proper hand-washing are so important to prevent the spread of such diseases,” Durso said.
While some parents may not agree with immunizations, professionals warn that not vaccinating children could lead to an epidemic in the school system.
“Unvaccinated children are at increased risk for contracting vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, mumps and rubella,” said Dr. Christopher Perkins, Dallas County health authority/medical director. “Following the CDC’s immunization recommendation is one of the most important actions parents can take to protect the health of their children and that of their classmates.”
DCHHS urged parents to beat the back-to-school rush and get their children vaccinated soon.
“We anticipate a large turn out as the school season begins to approach,” said Ganesh Shivaramaiyer, DCHHS interim director. “Parents have the opportunity to beat waiting lines by taking advantage of extended hours before the school year begins.”
Each year, Parkland COPCs offers convenient immunizations on Walk-in Wednesdays.
“Parents can bring their children for immunizations on Wednesdays without having to make an appointment. We encourage parents to do so because vaccines are a vital part of your child’s health,” Durso said. “When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk for diseases and can put others in danger by spreading diseases in their classrooms and community.”
Walk-in-Wednesdays will be available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. To schedule an appointment at an COPC health center, call 214-266-4000. To schedule an appointment at a Youth and Family Center, call 214-266-1257.
For families who do not have insurance, Parkland can provide financial screening to determine if patients qualify for financial assistance. In addition, the Vaccines for Children program may be able to help.
“Vaccines keep children healthy by preventing disease. When children are healthy they miss fewer days of school and parents miss fewer days of work,” Durso emphasized. “When children are healthy, parents and children win.”
College students are also able to get the state required meningitis vaccine at DCHHS clinics. Without the vaccine, they cannot enter college. Those students include anyone who is a first-time student of public, private or an independent institution of higher education, transfer student or a student who previously attended an institution of higher education before Jan. 1, 2012, who is now enrolling again following a break in enrollment of at least one fall or spring semester.
To find the Parkland COPC health center, visit https://www.parklandhospital.com. To find a DCHHS Immunization Clinic, visit https://www.dallascounty.org/ department/hhs/immunizationhours.html. For more information on the VCF program visit https://www.cdc.gov/features/ vfcprogram.