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California Department Of Health Services

News Release
California Department of Health Services

Number: 05-54
Date: August 18, 2005
For Release: Immediate
Contact: Ken August or Norma Arceo

Interim State Health Officer Reminds Parents of The Importance of Childhood Immunizations As Their Children Head Back to School

SACRAMENTO - With the new school year fast approaching, Interim State Health Officer Dr. Howard Backer today urged parents to make sure their children are fully immunized before classes start.

"Immunizations are a safe and effective way to help kids stay healthy by protecting them from serious diseases, such as hepatitis B, whooping cough and chickenpox," Backer said. "These illnesses are still present. Although now uncommon, they rapidly spread between children who have not been immunized. Complications from these diseases can be devastating to children and their families."

California schools are required to verify each child's immunization record to ensure all required shots are completed. Before entering kindergarten, children need a total of five DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis), four polio, three hepatitis B, two MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and one varicella (chickenpox) shot. Boosters for DTaP, polio and MMR are given at the ages of 4 or 5.

Backer indicated that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and California now recommend that all adolescents, including entering seventh graders, get two new shots: Pertussis vaccine (Tdap) combined with a tetanus and diphtheria booster will protect adolescents against whooping cough (pertussis) since they lose protection from their childhood doses of DTaP. This vaccine will replace the previous tetanus plus diphtheria vaccine. Meningococcal conjugate vaccine is recommended for seventh graders, high school freshmen and college freshmen who will be living in dorms. It protects them from the most common type of bacterial meningitis.

The California Department of Health Services collaborates each year with the California Association of Health Plans, California Department of Education, local health departments and schools throughout the state to get the word out to parents, health care providers and health plan members about school immunizations requirements.

For more information about school immunization requirements and vaccine-preventable diseases, parents should contact their child's physician, school nurse or local health department's immunization program. Local health departments provide low-cost or free immunizations for children without health insurance. As with all school immunization laws, California provides an exemption for medical reasons and personal beliefs.

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