Austin on track with vaccinations

Published 7:41 am Thursday, August 19, 2010

By Trey Mewes

While preparing for the upcoming school year means back-to-school shopping for most families, it also means a trip to the doctor’s office for immunization shots.

Students statewide will soon have to update their immunization records in order to remain in school, per state law. Although Mower County is no exception, the people here follow the rules better than most.

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According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 54 percent of infants statewide between two- and three-years-old get the full series of vaccines recommended by the state. This includes vaccinations for polio, varicella, hepatitis b, Haemophilus influenza type b shots, a prevnar shot, diptheria, tetanus and pertussis shots, and measles, mumps and rubella shots.

While the average percentage for infants in Mower County at the same age range is similar at 53 percent, 97 percent of infants in Mower County have received more than two of the state’s recommended vaccinations. Since the state’s recommended vaccinations include prevnar and varicella shots, which aren’t legally required by the state, immunization rates among children past this age get hazy, as immunization data submitted from private hospitals and other sources get harder to track. That’s why schools across the state submit the immunization records for every student each year in late October or early November.

“For kindergarten kids, we do pretty well,” said Margene Gunderson, director of community health services for Mower County. According to Gunderson, about 98 percent of Mower County kindergarten students have up-to-date immunization records, which must be done before a student can enter school.

If a child doesn’t have their required immunization shots, they won’t be permitted to attend school, according to Tricia Browning, the supervisor of school health services for Austin Public Schools.

“We want to make sure students are getting their updates,” Browning said.

Special exemptions are available for families who among other reasons object to vaccination or who have children that are medically averse to receiving certain shots, but there are few families in Austin Public Schools who apply for those exemptions.

Mower County Public Health offers several clinics each year for students from uninsured or underinsured families that need to receive the required immunizations, such as a clinic for Austin Public School sixth graders who need certain vaccinations before they enter seventh grade. On top of that, MPCH also offers a public immunization clinic every Friday from 3:15 p.m. to 4:40 p.m.

MPCH will be offering Back-To-School clinics on August 23 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and on August 24 from noon to 1 p.m. at the Public Health clinic in Austin.

Austin Public School students can submit their immunization records to building nurses during conferences before the start of the school year.