County, local health officials encourage immunization as new school year starts

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The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Logo, courtesy of Facebook

To protect children and young adults against serious diseases as a new school year starts, the Los Angeles County Public Health Department and local health officials are encouraging all to speak to doctors about required immunizations.

“One sure way to protect your children and your family is by immunizing them against a series of diseases,” said Munti Davis, L.A. County’s health officer. “When children are not immunized, they are at increased risk for diseases and can also spread diseases to others in their classrooms and community – including babies who are too young to be fully immunized and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer or other health conditions.”

Opponents of vaccinating minors say children’s immune systems are strong enough to combat infections and injecting certain vaccine ingredients can cause side effects like seizures and trigger problems like autism or diabetes.

But Dr. Morris Yen, with Santa Clarita Pediatrics, said people should not be afraid of vaccines, as they have proven to prevent serious illnesses.  

Under California’s new immunization law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016, proof of a series of vaccines is required for school entry. They may vary, however, per student’s age and status.

For preschool and kindergarten students, there are five to six required immunizations including for polio, hepatitis B and varicella, or chickenpox. For children ages 11 through 12, or in the 7th grade, similar vaccines are required, including one dose of meningococcal immunization and three doses of human papillomavirus (HPV) immunization to help prevent against certain types of cancers.

Yen said clinics receive more foot traffic as the new school year approaches. “We see a lot of people come in to catch up on their vaccines around this time,” he said. “It’s really important to protect against these illnesses that are common but totally preventable.”

Local school districts are also working together to make sure students are prepared for the new year. While most of the work happens at elementary schools, higher-grade schools are communicating with elementary institutions as in some areas 6th graders prepare for the 7th grade, when another round of vaccines is required.

“We have done work directly with elementary school districts,” said Dave Caldwell, the William S. Hart Union High School District’s public relations officer. “We can’t reach out to elementary school parents but working with the districts helps us and them prepare for incoming students.”

While there is a big focus on vaccinating students, L.A. County encourages people of all ages to receive the annual, seasonal flu immunization.

Many insurance plans will cover immunizations at no cost to the patient. For referrals to no-cost or low-cost immunizations, call 2-1-1 or visit the Public Health website.

For more information about school immunization requirements, visit Public Health or Shots for School.

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