As school year approaches, vaccine time crunch kicks in

Vaccines have their share of detractors, chief among them kids, who, oddly enough, hate getting shots. But the truth remains that your child isn’t setting foot in most schools without up-to-date immunizations.

Required shots

Vaccines required for Chicago Public Schools include:
diphtheria; pertussis; tetanus (DTaP/Tdap); inactivated polio virus
(IPV); measles, mumps, rubella (MMR); hepatitis B; varicella
(chicken pox); haemophilus influenzae, type B (HIB).

For a full list of state-required vaccines, check the Illinois
Department of Health online schedule.

Cook County: (708) 492-2150, cookcountypublichealth.org

DuPage County: (630) 682-7400, www.dupagehealth.org

Kane County: (866) 233-9493, kanehealth.com

Lake
County: (847) 377-8470, 
lakecountyil.gov/health

Will County: (815) 727-8143, willcountyhealth.org

So we checked in with Lisa Kritz, director of the Chicago Area Immunization Campaign, to answer some last-minute questions about the back-to-school flurry.

Mumps’ the word. In 2008, Illinois was one of 15 states affected by the largest outbreak of measles in the United States in more than a decade. Last year, an outbreak of mumps in New York and New Jersey concerned public health officials and pediatricians. And as many as 50,000 people are hospitalized each year with viral meningitis. These diseases are all preventable with on-time and up-to-date immunizations.

“It’s a big schedule of [immunizations], and it can be daunting to parents, but it’s big for a reason: there are a lot of preventable diseases out there,” Kritz says. “We just have to remind parents of the diseases that they’re protecting their child from.”

Big Whoop. Particularly concerning this year is a recent spike in cases of pertussis. You probably know it as whooping cough, a name that more accurately describes what happens to you when you get it. Since late June, 13 cases of pertussis have been reported in the Chicago area, almost double the number during the same time period last year, and six infants in California have died this year from the disease.

Because the infants are too young to receive their own pertussis vaccine (which babies get at 2 months), they’re contracting it from parents and caregivers whose own vaccines have worn off, Kritz says. So make sure your shots are up to date to avoid unknowingly infecting your kids.

We’re getting a C. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sets a goal of 90 percent vaccination rate in the general population. Illinois comes in at 71.2 percent, with Chicago a touch better at 75.6 percent. That’s actually above the national average of 72.9 percent, Kritz says, but still “well below optimal.” How would you feel about your child bringing home straight Cs? We can do better.

Think ahead. Studies continue to show a strong link between actually attending school and doing well in classes, and it’s probably going to be pretty tough for your child to make the honor roll when they’re not allowed past the front door. Starting Oct. 15, Chicago Public schools won’t allow any child who hasn’t received the required shots to attend school. And though forced hooky days might make you popular with your child, any “cool parent” points you earn will be quickly taken away when your child has to attend summer school to make up missed time.

No excuses. A lot of people have lost health insurance or cut back on medical care during the recession. But immunizations are available at no to little cost through most city and county health departments. See contact information on the right for your county.

So you’ve made the appointment, printed out all the forms, and you’re ready to take your child in for his shots. The question now is how to do it without making your child hate you. Check out our review of Buzzy Shots, a new product designed to take the sting out of shots.

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