EDUCATION: The ABCs of back-to-school booster shots; New immunization rules in place this year, parents urged to double check records
BEMIDJI -- Parents are being urged to look beyond the "back-to-school" aisles as they prepare to send children off for a new school year in a few weeks.
New immunization rules have taken effect and some students may need to get additional shots before they are able to start class.
"The biggest changes really are for the seventh-graders," said Emily Bakken, district nurse for Bemidji Area Schools.
Seventh-graders are now required to be vaccinated against meningococcal, which can lead to meningitis. They also are now required to have a tdap, which replaces the former td (tetanus and diphtheria) immunization requirement. The difference, Bakken explained, is that the tdap includes a vaccination against pertussis, or whooping cough.
Many of the students potentially affected by the new rules may have already had the full tdap and not realized it was a different shot, as Bakken said providers have likely been giving that combination in recent years. Still, she encourages parents to double check their child's immunization records.
There also are two other new immunization changes. All students who are 2-months-old who are enrolled in child care or an early childhood program are also required to now have a Hepatitis B immunization. Likewise, children who are at least a year old must also have a Hepatitis A immunization.
"I've actually been getting ready for it throughout the past year," Bakken said of the new law governing immunizations in schools.
District staff has been reviewing students' records and preparing for the new requirements. In fact last spring, Beltrami County Health, as a part of a state grant, was able to send its staff into Bemidji Middle School to provide some of those needed immunization to students. Bakken said 70 to 75 were inoculated during that visit.
Also, this summer, as records were again reviewed, Bakken said letters were sent to families of students who needed additional vaccinations.
"We probably had about 215 letters that we sent out to the middle school alone, and probably about 295 letters in total, which is really good for us," said Bakken, who said there have been years the district has sent out about 500 such letters.
Minnesota's immunization law requires all K-12 students in all grades to provide documentation for all required vaccines or provide a legal exemption. Bakken said Bemidji Area School has a very low percentage of families who opt against immunizations.
Check the records
Minnesota's immunization law requires all K-12 students in all grades to provide documentation for all required vaccines or provide a legal exemption.