MARQUETTE - Parents and others preparing children to return to school in the coming weeks should be aware of the current state of their children's vaccinations.
If a child is in need of an immunization prior to the start of school, the district will typically mail out a letter to parents, according to Jan Hutchens, who works for the Marquette Public School District.
Hutchens, who serves as the community services secretary for the athletic department and the district nurse, oversees the district's Michigan Care Improvement Registry database.
"(Students) are required to have the shot before Nov. 1 - our reporting period - and we generally ask they have it before," she said.
If parents decide they do not want to immunize their child, they must provide the district with an official form stating their reason. If a student doesn't have either an immunization record or a completed waiver, they are unable to attend school.
And there are a number of recommended vaccinations. The Immunization Action Coalition suggests that in the first year of life, children get more than two dozen individual shots, vaccinating against a host of illnesses, including hepatitis A and B, diphtheria tetanus, pertussis, polio, rotavirus, influenza and chickenpox.
It is also suggested that kids get a number of immunizations throughout childhood.
While the list of suggested vaccines is a long one, Vaccines For Children, a federally funded program run by the Centers for Disease Control, helps to make those immunizations available to all children.
Children under the age of 19 are eligible for the VFC program if they are uninsured, under-insured, Medicaid eligible or an American Indian or Alaska Native.
There are more than a dozen VFC providers locally, including the Marquette County Health Department, according to Laurie McGee, the secretary in the health department's clinic division.
"Some heath departments are the primary vaccination sites for different counties," she said. "We have a lot of coverage. We have a lot of good opportunities for people to get their kids vaccinated."
Under the VFC program, qualifying children are entitled to receive all recommended pediatric vaccines.
In Michigan alone, the program includes approximately 1,500 provider sites and 4,500 physicians.
The health department runs regular immunization clinics - typically on Mondays and Wednesdays - and tries to provide both children and adults with an opportunity to stay up-to-date on vaccinations.
But vaccines aren't just for kids. And after a child leaves the school system and no longer receives school updates about missing immunizations, there is little McGee's office can do.
If someone comes in and asks about their record, employees can determine which, if any, vaccinations are needed. People can also check with their health care provider, according to McGee.
"Someone should always, always, when you see a physician, have them check your records," she said.
For instance, it is suggested that adults get a tetanus-diptheria-pertussis booster every 10 years.
According to Julie Scott, a public health nurse at the health department, a fair share of adults attend the department's regular immunization clinics.
"Everybody who comes through the door here for an appointment gets their immunizations looked at and screened," she said.
The Marquette County Health Department can be reached at 475-7844.
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.