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Vaccines needed for school

Area clinics are seeing an increase in patients this month, mainly due to the fact that it's back-to-school time.

"We do the routine immunizations before kindergarten and before seventh grade," Dr. Jon Larson, managing physician partner at Sanford Health Clinic in Detroit Lakes, said.

"Especially for the middle school kids, we see a pretty high concentration this time of year," he added. "Part of that is because they have to have their sports physicals, so we get a pretty good press here the first couple weeks of August."

While up until age 5, youngsters endure quite a few immunization shots, it's simply a DTaP booster for the young teens. Larson said it's common to also have the meningitis vaccine and start young teen girls on the HPV vaccine.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month.

"The ages 11 to 13 are the Golden Years," said Sue Ivankovich, PAC, with St. Mary's Innovis Health.

She added that kids that age are also ready for a chicken pox booster because there is a small group of kids that only got one dose as smaller children, before health professionals realized they needed to be giving the shot at age 1 and age 5.

Ivankovich said it's recommended that kids have the meningitis vaccine around age 13, but, "it's absolute that they have to have it before college."

The HPV vaccine, the one for cervical cancer, is also brought up to young teens. While it's a known vaccine for females, Ivankovich said the vaccine has actually been approved for males as well.

"Obviously they're not going to get cervical cancer, but it's a sexually transmitted disease," she said. "So, if the boys don't have that form of HPV, they're not going to give it to the girls."

There has yet to be a boy getting that vaccine from her, but "the girls are very interested," Ivankovich said. "Parents of girls are very interested."

With the controversy surrounding the vaccine indicating parents' approval of sexual activity, Ivankovich said she's sees a lot more college-aged females coming in the for vaccine rather than younger girls.

According to the Children's Physician Network and Minnesota Medical Association Immunization schedule, Minnesota's recommended immunization schedule includes:

-DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis), IPV (polio), MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), varicella (chicken pox), PCV (pneumococcal), hepatitis A and hepatitis B, rotavirus, influenza and Haemophilus (Hib) vaccinations for infants and young children;

-Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis), MCV (meningococcal), influenza, and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccinations for children ages 7 to 18;

-Td (tetanus, diphtheria) vaccinations every 10 years as adults.

Recent outbreaks of measles, mumps, and whooping cough show that these diseases have not been completely controlled. Over the past two years, several children in California have been killed by whooping cough.

In 2008, an outbreak of invasive Hib disease in Minnesota was the largest outbreak since 1992 and killed one unvaccinated infant, according to the Children's Physician Network and Minnesota Medical Association.

"It's very important," Larson said of getting vaccines and staying on schedule. "Those diseases can be very devastating."

Tetanus can be fatal, he said, whooping cough can be a prolonged illness, bacterial meningitis has a 50 percent fatality rate, and "then of course cervical cancer is certainly a great health risk," he added.

According to statistics from the American Academy of Pediatrics, this year alone, vaccines alone will prevent 33,000 deaths and 14 million infections.

"I think it is of extreme importance," Ivankovich said of having immunizations and staying on schedule with them. "Not only for the child, but also for those around us. For the little infants that aren't yet protected and from people in the community that suffer from immune systems that are less than adequate.

"People used to die of infections we now readily prevent," she added.

"I think it's very important these kids get their immunizations and obviously the school system thinks it's important because they keep track of that and make sure you have those done before they start school," Larson said.

Ivankovich said she has parents that are nervous about getting vaccines and have concerns. Her first mission is to put their minds at ease.

"The first thing I do is try to find out what prevents them, what is it that's on their mind that scares them about immunizations," she said. "A lot of times, it's a he-said, she-said thing, they heard something about them not being safe.

"It's almost always a myth."

In recent years, parents have expressed concern that the mercury in the MMR vaccine causes autism. Or that there are germs in the vaccines that will infect the children.

Ivankovich said there are about 150 germs in the total amount of vaccines children receive, whereas people come in contact with thousands of germs a day.

"I try and put it in perspective for them," she said. "Sometimes, it's something very easy to reduce their worries.

"Every parent is just trying to make the right decision, and no one wants to see their child suffer with an illness or die. You want to make the right decision."

Larson said there's good reason so many organizations recommend the vaccinations, in the name of health.

"There is very good scientific data behind doing them, and there's a lot of evidence that not doing them is much more harmful. The diseases themselves are much more harmful than potential side effects or risks (of vaccines)," he said.

For a full schedule of vaccinations under state vaccination law, visit or call the Minnesota Department of Health at 1-800-657-3970.