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Vaccinations are key part of going back to school

With school starting soon, parents are making sure their children have had all the appropriate vaccinations, but grade-school students are not the only ones at risk.

Dr. Henry Kim, a Luverne pediatrician and physician, said that vaccinations are started as soon as a child is born and continue for years.

“One of the miracles of the last 40 years is almost wiping out some infectious diseases,” Kim said. “There are almost no measles, German measles, diphteria, polio or whooping cough because of vaccination programs.”

Between birth and the age of two years, children are immunized against Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, rotavirus (which can cause bouts of diarrhea in infants, Kim says), diphteria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP), Hib (haemophilus influenzae), penumococcal, and polio.

Booster shots are given at age 4 and 11.

Kim said that at the age of 11, vaccinations begin for meningococcal meningitis, which is one of the most serious bacterial infections known.

“Many people going to boarding schools and colleges get this vaccination,” he said.

Meningococcal meningitis is spread through close contact with other people, so those living in dormitories are at higher risk.

“The mortality rate is high, and I’ve seen people die from bacterial shock before meningitis developed,” Kim said.

One recent development in immunizations is for HPV or human papillomavirus.

“HPV has been found to cause cervical cancer in ladies,” Kim said. “We begin vaccinating for young teenage girls before they become sexually active.  The vaccination is in three shots, and we start at age 11.  The American Academy of Pediatrics is also recommending that for boys.”

To make sure that your child’s immunizations are up to date, or to find out more about vaccinations, please contact your physician or the Crenshaw County Health Department at 335-2471.