By Ben Sherman, Fort Sill CannoneerAugust 9, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla.-- August begins a busy time of transition. Summer vacations are coming to an end, and school will soon start.
It's time for parents to make plans for their children to return to school and that includes getting their immunizations up to date. August is also National Immunization and Influenza Awareness month, with emphasis on everyone keeping up with their shots.
"There is not a specific day to get a child's shots here at Fort Sill," said Capt. Jasmine Peterson, Army Public Health nursing chief. "The emphasis this month is to remind everybody to get their immunizations, especially because children are about to go back to school or college and parents should make sure that their children's immunizations are up to date."
Shots for school
Peterson emphasized that parents should keep their child's immunization records up to date through wellness checkups with their healthcare provider. But, they should make sure they have a copy of that immunization record for registration day. Parents must have all vaccination records; state-issued official birth certificate (not from the hospital) and proof of residency in the school district when they go to enroll their children. To attend Geronimo Road or Sheridan Road Elementary schools students must live with their parents on Fort Sill. Classes begin in Lawton/Fort Sill schools Aug. 17.
Different vaccines are required for each age group from pre-school through 12th grade. To find out what vaccinations are required by Lawton/Fort Sill public schools, go to www.lawtonps.org/enrollment/ to view the "Guide to Immunization Requirements in Oklahoma."
Peterson emphasized that the vaccinations are important for more than compliance with school laws.
"People think a lot of diseases that we have immunized against in the past have been eliminated, but they haven't," she said.
Even with vaccinations, outbreaks of diseases can occur. In 1980, an outbreak of measles in Oklahoma resulted in 775 confirmed cases of the disease and one death. The majority of the cases were school-age children, and measles is on the rise again.
Whooping cough is back
Peterson stated one illness, pertussis or whooping cough, that the required vaccinations guard against is also making a comeback.
"We are seeing people coming from other countries; or families that don't believe in immunizations; or children who miss their immunization schedule and aren't adequately immunized against diseases like pertussis. When children who don't have an immunity are exposed to these diseases, that's how an outbreak gets started," Peterson said.
Pertussis is an illness that causes coughing fits so intense that patients have difficulty breathing. The lack of oxygen to the brain during coughing fits may lead to brain damage.
Parents should know students entering seventh grade are required to have one dose of the Tdap vaccine, to boost immunity to tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. This is because the protection that adolescents received as children weakens after five or 10 years.
Adults need shots too
Peterson said the Army's emphasis during National Immunization and Influenza Awareness month includes adults as well as children and youths, and that vaccinations aren't just for children.
"Flu season is coming up soon and people need those immunizations on an annual basis. It's easier to give the dosing all at one time," she said.
Peterson recommends that in addition to the yearly influenza shots, there are a number of other immunizations people need to have.
"Adults should get a tetanus shot every two years with a one-time booster of the tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis or Tdap vaccines," she stated. "If they don't think they have immunity against chicken pox, they will need two doses of that vaccine. Their primary care provider can test to see if they have immunity.
"We also recommend anyone over the age of 65 should get a pneumonia shot each year," Peterson said.
She said the best way for everyone in the Fort Sill community to know whether they are up to date on their immunizations is to check with their primary care provider when they receive their flu shot in the next few weeks.
"Everyone needs to keep their immunizations up to date," she added.
The flu vaccines will be available soon and patients will be notified when they can receive shots at family practice clinics at Fort Sill.
Call the flu hotline at 558-3333 for more information.