Guest View: Spring into immunity

A flu vaccine is prepared during a free clinic at the Veterans Memorial Building.

With the coming of summer, families of sixth-graders are looking forward to a fun-filled season that also includes the mandatory tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap) vaccination for seventh-grade entry. This middle-school rite of passage is frequently left to the precious last days of summer vacation. This quirk of human nature causes a late-summer “Tdap tsunami” at local pharmacies, healthcare providers’ offices, and here at Public Health Services.
We encourage all families of this fall’s seventh-graders to make Tdap appointments with their healthcare providers as soon as possible. Taking this preventive action will make the family summer a far less stressful event. Postponing this important health-related task raises the risk of being unable to get a timely immunization appointment—and possibly missing the start of school.
Don’t run that risk: Parents should contact their healthcare providers now for a Tdap appointment! Or call our local pharmacies to see if they have Tdap vaccine available.
Goodbye, personal-belief exemptions
Speaking of schools and immunizations, parents need to know that starting on January 1, 2016, Senate Bill 277 eliminated personal-belief exemptions (PBEs) for current immunizations required school attendance.
For children already attending school, PBEs filed by December 31, 2015, remain valid until the next “immunization checkpoint”: Kindergarten and seventh grade. However, PBEs filed more than 6 months before a child’s first entry to child care or school will not be valid this coming fall. For example, if you filed a PBE by December 31, 2015, for a child who is starting either child care or Kindergarten for the first time this coming fall, that PBE is not valid.
For reliable and wide-ranging information on school immunization topics, visit www.shotsforschool.org.
There is now only one legal category of immunization exemption: medical exemptions. Only a licensed physician (medical doctor or doctor of osteopathic medicine) can provide a medical exemption. The physician must provide the school with a signed and dated letter (not a form) stating
That the physical condition or medical circumstances of the child are such that the required immunization(s) is (are) not indicated.
Which vaccines are being exempted.
Whether the medical exemption is permanent or temporary.
The expiration date of the medical exemption, if the exemption is temporary.
The letter does not need to state what the child’s physical condition or medical circumstances are.
Keeping up with the Joneses’ immunizations
If you are curious about how many children at your school have the required shots, visit www.shotsforschool.org. The left-hand column of the site’s home page displays a graphic with links to child care, Kindergarten, and 7th grade immunization data for the current school year. You can get the immunization data by your school’s address, ZIP Code, or name.
Where to get immunizations
Adults and children with healthcare coverage should contact their healthcare providers or local pharmacies for information on how to get immunizations. You can also contact your health insurance provider about your immunization coverage. Remember: It’s always best to have all your healthcare needs provided by your healthcare provider—or “medical home.”
Uninsured children, or children on Medi-Cal who cannot get a timely appointment with their healthcare providers, can get free immunizations at Public Health Services’ immunization clinics. We hold immunization clinics on the first, third, and fourth Tuesdays of the month by appointment. We offer all 13 of the routine childhood immunizations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For general immunization information and to make immunization appointments, call Public Health Services at 831-637-5367. You are also welcome to visit us at 439 Fourth Street (across from the courthouse) for information on communicable diseases, nutrition, tobacco cessation, emergency preparedness—and immunizations.

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