The best choice is to have the children vaccinated by your family doctor. But if that is not possible, county offices of the Florida Department of Health (DOH) are offering free immunizations over the summer. DOH-Broward will offer them again during a big campaign at Lauderhill Mall from August 7 – 22.
“Vaccines are safe and have helped us wipe out many communicable diseases,” says Dr. Paula Thaqi, Director of DOH-Broward. “Parents who want to fully protect their children should have them immunized.”
Skipping the shots does matter. In South Florida and elsewhere in the U.S., a few unvaccinated children have come down with cases of diseases that previously were virtually eradicated, namely measles, chickenpox and whooping cough.
Florida law says children cannot start school unless they have received all vaccinations against nine contagious and potentially fatal childhood diseases. Don’t let a missing vaccination mess up the first day of school. Back-to-school shots are especially important for children entering kindergarten and seventh grade, because different requirements begin at those grade levels.
Vaccinations required for school include:
• Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) – 4-5 doses of DTaP for babies and pre-schoolers. 1 booster dose, TDaP, before seventh grade.
• Polio – 3-5 doses for babies and pre-schoolers.
• Measles, mumps, rubella (German measles) – 2 doses of MMR for babies and pre-schoolers.
• Varicella (chickenpox) – 2 doses for babies and pre-schoolers. 1 booster dose before seventh grade.
• Hepatitis B – 3 doses for babies.
Parents are encouraged to consider additional vaccinations not required for school but recommended by federal health officials. These include vaccines against flu (yearly starting at age six months), rotavirus (3 doses for babies), Haemophilus influenzae B (3-4 doses for babies), pneumococcal disease (4 doses for babies), hepatitis A (2 doses for babies), human papilloma virus (2-3 doses starting at age 9) and meningococcal disease (2 doses starting at age 11).
For back-to-school needs, DOH gives free shots provided through the federal Vaccines for Children program:
DOH-Broward – Free school shots at two Department health centers (appointments 954-467-4705). Also, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 7 through Tuesday, Aug. 23 at Lauderhill Mall, 1267 NW 40 Ave. Evening hours from 4 to 7 p.m. are available on Thursdays Aug. 10 and 17 and on Monday Aug. 14, and an immunization and family fun fair is set for Saturday, Aug. 12. Free vaccines for HPV and meningitis will be available. Information at http://broward.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/clinical-and-nutrition-services/immunizations/index.html.
DOH-Palm Beach – Free school shots at Department health centers (appointments 561-625-5180) and on board a mobile van. Information and van schedule at http://palmbeach.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/clinical-and-nutrition-services/immunizations/index.html.
DOH-Miami-Dade – Free school shots at four Department health centers (appointments 786-845-0550). Information at http://miamidade.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/clinical-and-nutrition-services/immunizations/clinics/index.html.