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TCHC, public health team up for vaccination clinic

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A Minnesota law strengthening vaccine requirements is set to take effect on Sept. 1, just as the new school year begins.

Tri-County Health Care and Wadena County Public Health are teaming up to host an immunization clinic for area students entering the seventh grade, the age group most affected by changes to the law. It will be held next Tuesday, Aug. 5 from 5 to 7 p.m. at TCHC-Wadena Clinic.

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"It's been a year of change," said Heidi Happel, Wadena County Public Health community health specialist. "We just want to make sure all the kids are ready to go when school starts."

For the first time, all students entering seventh grade are required to be vaccinated against meningitis. They also must have received the Tdap vaccine, which prevents diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough).

The law requires students in eighth through 12th grades to provide immunization documentation if the school requests it. Parents may file a medical exemption signed by a health-care provider or a conscientious objection signed by a parent or guardian and notarized.

Health officials strongly encourage immunization.

"Vaccinations not only protect your child from deadly diseases, but they also keep other children safe by eliminating or greatly decreasing dangerous diseases that used to spread from child to child," said Judy White, TCHC clinic administrator.

About half of all Minnesota 11-to 12-year-olds have not received the Tdap or meningitis vaccines, according to the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection.

"The numbers aren't where they should be," said Amy Yglesias, a TCHC nurse who specializes in immunization. "(The vaccination clinic is) a perfect night to have a screening done and find out what your child needs and to get it taken care of before the back to school rush begins."

The Tdap and meningitis vaccines will be available free of charge while supplies last.

Other required vaccines available through insurance or direct payment include the second dose of varicella (unless the student has already had the chicken pox disease), the Hepatitis B series and the second dose of MMR, which prevents measles, mumps and rubella.

The clinic will also offer recommended immunizations against Hepatitis A and HPV.

A few additional changes to the immunization law will affect infants and toddlers. For example, effective Sept. 1, all children older than 12 months must be vaccinated against Hepatitis A before enrolling in child care or an early childhood education program.

For more information, including a full explanation of vaccination requirements, go to www.heath.state.mn.us/immunize.

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