Health department schedules immunization clinics

In an effort to increase the immunization rates for school-age children, the Harford County Health Department will be holding early Back-to School Immunization Clinics for uninsured and underinsured students.

Each year, the Harford County Health Department holds Back-to School Immunization Clinics to help students become up-to-date with their vaccinations. This year, clinics will be on Tuesdays throughout July and August at the Edgewood office, 1321 Woodbridge Station Way. Morning and evening times are available and the public is invited to call 410-612-1774 to schedule an appointment. In conjunction with this service, free immunization pamphlets and education will be available.

"Because most families have much busier schedules once school is back in session, we want to make it more convenient for families to make appointments for shots during the summer months. All children need vaccines to prevent diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, haemophilus influenza (Hib), hepatitis B, pneumonia, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis A, and meningitis, all of which can cause serious complications, and even death. Students with fewer absentee days usually perform better in school. When students can't attend school because they are not up-to-date with their shots, the time missed can make it more difficult for them to keep up with their assignments. Parents can help prevent this by arranging for their children to receive the necessary vaccines during the summer months. No less importantly, vaccinations help to prevent outbreaks in schools and communities," Kim Kelley, a nurse and immunization coordinator for the Harford County Health Department, said in a press release.

Students must comply with school vaccine requirements to remain in school. In 2008, Maryland ranked first in immunization rates for school-age children, with 99 percent compliance. The same year, Maryland was also first in vaccination rates for children ages 19 to 35 months, with 91 percent compliance. The Harford County Health Department strives to provide vaccinations to all uninsured and underinsured children, to protect them from vaccine preventable diseases and lost days from school.

An example of a common but highly contagious viral illness that is transmitted by coughing and sneezing is measles. After an infected person leaves an area, the virus remains contagious for up to two hours on surfaces and in the air. Measles can cause severe complications such as pneumonia, encephalitis and death. From January through June, 12 measles outbreaks were reported in the U.S., totaling 156 confirmed cases; 85 percent of the individuals who contracted measles were not vaccinated with the MMR vaccine. The states with outbreaks closest to Maryland were: Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey and New York.

Pertussis (whooping cough) is another very contagious illness that can be deadly to infants. In recent years, nearly 17,000 cases of pertussis were reported in the United States and many states including California, Texas, Ohio, Michigan Arizona and South Carolina have experienced pertussis and measles outbreaks. Children and adults that contract pertussis can continue with prolonged coughing episodes that may last for 10 weeks or more. Since infants do not complete the first four doses of DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis) vaccine until they are 15 months or older, it is extremely important that those around them are vaccinated with either the DTaP or Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis) vaccine. Protection from the DTaP vaccine significantly declines after age 12, therefore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children 11 to 12 years old receive the Tdap vaccine. Anyone 12 or older who has not been vaccinated with the Tdap vaccine, should receive it.

Harford County Health Officer Susan Kelly reminds the public, "Immunizations are vital to the health and well-being of the residents of Harford County. I urge all parents to take their children to their medical provider or to make an appointment with the health department for vaccinations prior to the beginning of the school year."

The Harford County Health Department can also assist parents/guardians with finding a medical provider. Call 410-273-5626 for assistance. Applications for the Maryland Children's Health Program (MCHIP) are also available at the Bel Air, Aberdeen and Edgewood health department locations.

For additional information, contact the Harford County Health Department Division of Immunization Services, 410-612-1774, visit the health department website,, or call 410-612-1771.

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