Shots and tests can be given by primary-care physicians, but Cobb & Douglas Public Health will also be offering these back-to-school requirements at four of its health clinics in Marietta, Douglas County, Acworth and east Cobb.
“We want to ensure that every student, whether just starting elementary school or entering college, is fully protected,” said Karen Thomas, District Immunization Director at Cobb & Douglas Public Health.
Students starting kindergarten, or those new to Georgia schools, are required to have two doses each of the measles, mumps and rubella, and the chickenpox immunizations, a booster shot for pertussis and polio, and dental, vision and hearing tests.
Rising sixth-grade students are required to have the same shots and screenings before the start of the school year, plus the meningitis and human papillomavirus vaccines.
It is also recommended that high school and college students get a meningitis vaccine.
Patients with no health insurance or those who have insurance but it does not cover vaccines are charged an administration fee of $21.90 per vaccine. Costs vary at private practices.
Dr. Amy Cooper, a pediatrician with WellStar Physician Group’s Pediatrics at East Cobb off Roswell Road, said it’s important for students to get their vaccines because it not only reduces the chance of a child getting sick, but also the possibility of an outbreak in a school or community.
“Diseases spread most by those who are not immunized,” she said.
According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control, around 95 percent of students starting kindergarten in 2011 were properly vaccinated on the national level and Georgia records were slightly above that figure, coming in at about 97 percent.
Some risks involved
Cooper said reasons why families may choose not to have their children vaccinated, or might be exempt from the state law requirements, are medical issues, which is rare, religious beliefs, and in some cases parents who have concerns with specific immunizations.
A recent worry is that vaccinations could lead to long-term illnesses like Autism.
“All of the vaccines that we give, we do so because the benefit is greater than the risk but it’s very important that your pediatrician sit down with you and find out exactly what it is that you’re worried about so that they can explain what the facts truly are,” Cooper said.
And whether it’s the correct year to get a vaccination or not, she also recommends parents still have their child checked out at least once a year.
“It gives the pediatrician a chance to track growth, height and weight,” Cooper said. “And to make sure they are doing as well as they can before they start the school year.”
Individuals who need vaccines or screenings are encouraged to make an appointment with their doctor or call the local health department at (770) 514-2485. Appointments are not necessary at the health department and testing will be conducted Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
For more information, visit Cobb & Douglas Public Health online at cobbanddouglaspublichealth.org, or check out any of the following websites recommended by Cooper: Center for Disease Control and Prevention, cdc.gov/vaccines; Every Child by Two, ecbt.org; and Immunization Action Coalition, immunize.org.