SIKESTON -- With the start of the school year just around the corner, it's not just school supply lists parents need to check. Now is also the time to make sure children are up-to-date on their immunizations -- from those beginning kindergarten to older students about to start college.
"Right now is a busy time for shots -- and it always is around back-to-school time," said Paula Rost, director of nursing at the New Madrid County Health Department. "Everybody waits until the last minute, and the kindergarten shots are what is the busiest right now -- students can't get in without them."
Karen Evans, a registered nurse at the Scott County Health Department, said it's also a prime time for students around the age of 15 and those entering college to get shots.
"Fifteen year olds are getting their Tdap -- the booster from their kindergarten shots," said Evans. The Tdap is a combination of tetanus, diptheria and pertussis.
Gardisil, which helps protect against the human papillomavirus and is currently the only one to fight cervical cancer, has also been given quite a bit recently. The shot is aimed at females 9 to 26.
"It's sort of an individual decision and something we don't push," said Rost of the HPV vaccine. "It's definitely recommended, but we leave that up to the parents."
Mary Miller, a clerk at the Mississippi County Health Department, agreed. "I still don't think some parents understand it -- there's been some controversy on it."
Miller noted that different colleges have different requirements, so it's a good idea to check it out -- especially since shots are free or discounted at local health departments.
"The meningitis shot is recommended (for college students) and mandatory if they live in a dorm," she said.
Evans said people as young as 11 can receive the meningitis shot and it is just as effective. She said it protects from the disease passed when people live closely together -- such as in dorms -- and can result in death.
"If they're coming in for the Tdap, we go ahead and mention it then and give them information on it," she said.
Something relatively new for teens is the pertussis shot as part of their booster when they are 15 and entering high school, said Rost. It's only been part of the booster for two or so years, she said.
Pertussis is something several adults may not have ben immunized against -- and something they should consider, said Rost.
"If you would have a really bad cough, you might think about that and remind doctors to test you," she said. "It's very contagious and a lot of infants can get it from adults, but they're not old enough to be immunized."
The three also reminded that tetanus booster shots are recommended every 10 years -- although the last required immunization is part of the Tdap teens have. So, they encouraged parents to consider that -- or check their own shot records and get one if needed when they take their children for immunizations.
In an effort to make getting immunizations easier, the Scott County Health Department has an evening clinic, in addition to satellite clinics in different locations each Wednesday.
"They are usually pretty busy, but we've seen an increase lately with gas prices and back-to-school," said Evans.
When getting shots, individuals need to bring in their shot records. And if under 18, they need a parent with them.
Local health departments give shots on a walk-in basis at the following times:
> Mississippi County: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to noon Friday. On Thursday and Friday, shots are also given at the satellite office in East Prairie.
> Shots are administered 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday at the New Madrid County Health Department. They are also given at all the WIC satellite clinics.
> The Scott County Health Department gives shots every Tuesday from 8 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3:30 p.m. There is an evening clinic from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Aug. 11 at the Sikeston office and satellite clinics each Wednesday of the month from 9 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 3:30 p.m. Locations are: the Oran Jaycee Hall the first week; the Scott City First Assembly of God Church the second; the Chaffee Elks Lodge the third; and the Riverside Regional Library in Benton the fourth Wednesday of the month.
Qualifications for who can receive the immunizations vary by department. For more information, call your local health department.