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Back to school time — check those immunizations

County health officials are advising parents that August is an ideal time of year to make sure that children’s vaccines are up-to-date, and warning of the increased potential for virulent flu this coming school year.

“Immunizations are a safe and effective way to keep children healthy and in school,” said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health - Seattle & King County. “Getting immunized protects our children and keeps others around them healthy, too.”

A child who is not fully immunized:

• Is at increased risk of getting a vaccine-preventable disease.

• May be excluded from attending school or child care during an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease, possibly lasting weeks.

• May also infect others who don’t have the option of vaccine protection, like those with a weakened immune system, pregnant women who can’t receive some vaccines, or infants too young to be completely protected by vaccines.

There have been changes to this year’s vaccination requirements for entry to grades K-12 and to attend child care or preschool. For the complete vaccination schedule, visit: www.kingcounty.gov/health/immunization.

A seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for all children ages six months through 18 years. Parents should also be thinking about vaccinating their children against the H1N1 (swine flu) virus, which is expected to make a resurgence this fall. A vaccine is being developed that will be recommended, but not required, for children. It may become available locally as soon as October, and it will be distributed largely through normal health care provider channels.

Requirements or recommendations for college students vary by institution. Check directly with the institution.

Parents or legal guardians have the right to choose not to immunize their children, based on medical, religious or philosophical reasons. Parents or legal guardians must sign a separate Certificate of Exemption form to exempt their child or children from receiving vaccines required for school entry.

For more information about immunizations, including Public Health immunization clinic hours and locations, call the Public Health hotline at (206) 296-4949 or go to www.kingcounty.gov/health/immunization.

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