Staying healthy during school

Local nurses: immunizations, screenings important for student learning, safety

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS - Marshall County Public Health Nurse Pat Thompson said vaccinations are important to keeping all children at the school district safe from preventable diseases. She is shown here after giving a shot to a Miller Middle School student last year.

Area parents are already thinking about picking up classroom supplies for the students as the new school year approaches — local nurses said they also need to think about making sure their children are immunized.

“It is so important right now, with the school year coming up that we’re reviewing the health requirements and looking into these new vaccination laws,” said Marshalltown Schools Lead Nurse Stacey Tool-Crawford. She said properly vaccinating students is important “to protect that individual child, but obviously to protect all our students within the district.”

A new requirement passed into state law last year means all seventh and 12th graders must have a meningitis vaccine before entering school. If they do not have such an immunization on record, they will not be allowed to take classes, Tool-Crawford said.

“They have to have it on their record and it has to be exactly as required,” she said. “I think a lot of us in health care were really surprised that they put the ‘no exemption’ on the meningitis vaccine because that’s the first time we’ve ever seen that come out like that.”

While meningitis isn’t the only disease students are required to be vaccinated against, Tool-Crawford said every other vaccine comes with a “grace period” where students get up to 60 days to get caught up on their dose. Therefore, she recommended if a student hasn’t yet been given the meningitis vaccine, that should be done soon.

“Get this now, because by the day school starts if you do not have that vaccine, you can’t start school,” she said.

Specifically, students entering seventh grade who were born after Sept. 15, 2004 must have one dose of the meningitis vaccine on or after reaching the age of 10. For 12th-graders born after Sept. 15, 1999, two doses are necessary, unless their first dose was taken after the age of 16.

Here are the district’s vaccine requirements by grade level:

•Kindergarten: diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus (DPT) vaccine; polio vaccine; measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine; varicella (chicken pox) vaccine; proof of Hepatitis B vaccine must also be on record

•Seventh grade: meningitis vaccine, TDAP (whooping cough and tetanus) vaccine

•High school seniors: meningitis vaccine

Tool-Crawford said there are other aspects of students’ health that get attention each year. All students entering kindergarten and ninth grade must have dental screenings, and all kindergartners must have had a lead screening since they were born. Additionally, all students in grades 7-12 who will participate in sports must have a physical checkup to participate.

Tool-Crawford also recommended that preschool and kindergarten students get a physical prior to the school year. She also said HPV and Hepatitis A vaccines are recommended for adolescent and teenage students.

Marshall County Public Health Nurse Pat Thompson said immunizing against meningitis, polio, whooping cough, chicken pox and more is key to keeping schools safe.

“When one person is vaccinated, that helps — when most people are vaccinated, that’s even better,” she said. “Not everybody can get every vaccination, so we want to make sure we have the most coverage that we can because that takes care of the most people.”

Along with the required and recommended vaccines to get prior to the school year, Thompson said it’s important families remember to keep up on the flu vaccine this year, too.

“Don’t forget to get your flu shot, that kind of gets pushed back and not thought of. It’s not required but it’s important.”

Thompson also said screenings, such as the dental screening some students must take, help ensure children are able to learn and be healthy.

“It’s about giving our children the best possible health to do the best they can to learn and grow up to be productive, happy adults,” she said.

For more information, visit https://marshalltown.k12.ia.us/our-district/health-services

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Contact Adam Sodders at

(641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com