LAFAYETTE — Parish health units across the state are holding special clinics or adding extra days to their vaccination schedules to help parents prepare their students for school.
The preventative measures are especially important in a school setting “where we know the children are in close contact with each other,” said Dr. Tina Stefanski, regional medical director for the state Office of Public Health in Acadiana.
State laws require vaccinations for children: 4-years-old and older who are entering kindergarten, pre-kindergarten, day-care or Head Start programs and those who are 11-years-old or entering the sixth grade.
Proof of current vaccination records also are required for new students.
“What is required will depend on how old you are and where you’ve been before,” said Dr. Frank Welch, medical director of the state’s immunization program. “The best way to assess that is to go to your health-care provider and ask: ‘What does my record look like and what do I need?’ ”
Welch encouraged parents not to wait to make appointments with a pediatrician or at a health unit.
“Get that one box checked,” he said. “Try not to wait for the crunch of school starting.”
In the Acadiana area, health units have added time to their vaccination schedules to accommodate back-to-school vaccination needs, Stefanski said.
Students without current immunizations are given time to update their records, said Amber Littlefield, Lafayette Parish school system nurses supervisor.
Those who fail to update their records within the allotted time may be sent home until they receive their vaccinations, Littlefield said.
Welch said school systems work with parents to help notify them of needed updates and ensure students are in compliance with required laws.
“Most parents, when they find out that their child is not in compliance, are surprised and want to remedy the situation,” Welch said.
Welch said those parents who opt not to vaccinate their children due to religious, philosophical or medical reasons, such as allergies, are required to sign a waiver form.
The form is necessary to protect the child and the school in case there is a “vaccine-preventable outbreak,” Welch said.
Unvaccinated students then are asked not to come to school until the outbreak is resolved, Littlefield said.