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Sixth-grade students will need new set of shots

Children entering sixth grade will need to get a new set of vaccinations, including those that prevent meningitis and tetanus, before starting school, the state health department says.

Jennifer Ralston-King, immunization assessment coordinator for the Arizona Department of Health Services, said the biggest change in the state’s vaccination schedule is the introduction of the meningococcal vaccine for 11-year-olds.

The meningococcal conjugate vaccine was licensed in 2005 and works to prevent meningitis, which is an infection of the fluid of a person’s spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain.

Penny Whitley, clinic manager at El Rio Community Health Center, said the one-time vaccine is being given to the pre-teens to reduce their risk of getting meningitis in college, where it is more common.

According to a 2001 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, teens account for 30 percent of meningococcal infections in the United States.

Also for the first time, sixth-grade students are required to get the tetanus or Tdap vaccine if it has been more than five years since their last tetanus shot.

In addition to tetanus, the Tdap vaccine protects against whooping cough, which Ralston-King said is becoming more common in teens.

The state health department is requiring that one dose of varicella or chicken pox vaccine be given before age 13 and is phasing in that requirement by having fourth- and 10th-graders get it this year, fifth- and 11th-graders in 2009 and sixth- and 12th-graders in 2010.

Whitley said even though the chicken pox vaccine is not required for sixth-graders, El Rio will give it to sixth-graders who attend its free back-to-school vaccine clinics.

About 11,000 students will enter sixth grade this year in Pima County, the Arizona Department of Education said.


Back-to-school vaccine clinics

El Rio Community Health Center

All clinics will be at Tucson-area Food City locations

July 24: 1:30-3:30 p.m., 428 W. Valencia Road

July 26: 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 2950 S. Sixth Ave.

July 31: 1:30-3:30 p.m., 1221 W. Irvington Road

Aug. 2: 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 2000 E. Irvington Road

Pima County Health Department

All clinics will be at the Tucson Convention Center, 260 S. Church Ave.

Aug. 5: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Aug. 9: 1-7 p.m.

Aug. 11: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Aug. 13: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Parents are encouraged to bring current shot records.


On the Web

The Arizona Department of Health Services: www.azdhs.gov

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