School time, vaccine time Shots not just for tots, docs say

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 31, 2011

Five-year-old Hallie Hamlin is going to kindergarten, but she’s got to do one thing first.

“She did super good,” said River Region Medical Center nurse Tina Ledbetter after giving Hallie, the daughter of Chris and Laura Hamlin of Rolling Fork, the required vaccinations for first-time students in Mississippi. “Very few don’t cry.”

Most youths in Vicksburg start classes in about a week, and pediatricians are recommending that teens and older students receive shots, too.

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“The teenage immunizations are optional,” said The Street Clinic’s Dr. Gordon Sluis during a back-to-school panel discussion Thursday at River Region. “This may be new for some, but some boosters are required for college.”

“The first booster that teenagers need is going to be the tetanus with pertussis,” he said, “so they won’t be able to carry it to younger kids.”

That vaccine is called DTaP, and it prevents diphtheria, an upper respiratory bacterial infection; tetanus, a bacterial infection of the nervous system; and pertussis, a bacterial infection that causes uncontrollable coughing.

DTaP is given first to children who are 1 month old. Then, a series of four shots is given until the child turns 1 and again before the child enters school.

But a “tetanus booster needs to be every eight to 10 years,” Sluis said.