By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
The Mississippi Department of Health this week is taking the sting out of immunizations, at least for parents.
As part of National Infant Immunization Week, childhood immunizations, which are normally $10 a dose at county health departments through Friday, are being offered for free.
“Any child through the age of 18 can get caught up on vaccines they’ve missed or have the age-appropriate vaccines,” said Dr. Paul Byers, acting state epidemiologist. “This is a good time to do that.”
Currently, Mississippi leads the nation in the percentage of children 19 to 35 months who have received the appropriate immunizations.
It’s not too early to think about shots required for school. Any child who has turned 4 can receive the vaccines that are required for kindergarten entrance.
But shots aren’t just for babies and incoming kindergartners.
“We don’t need to forget there are several vaccines recommended for adolescents as well,” said Dr. Mary Currier, state health officer. Tdap, HPV and meningococcal vaccines are recommended starting at age 11.
The Tdap booster includes protection against pertussis, also called whooping cough. The disease is usually mild in teens and adults, but it can be life-threatening for small infants who are too young to be immunized.
“The more you protect adolescents, the more you can protect infants,” Byers said.
Teens headed for college are particularly encouraged to have a meningococcal vaccine; some universities require it for students living in dorms, Byers said.
Health department staff can access the vaccine registry to track which vaccines have previously been given to a child through the Vaccines for Children program in Mississippi.