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Rising seventh-graders need new immunizations

Before any rising seventh-grader goes back to school, health officials are reminding students and their families that they need new immunizations.

All students born on or after January 1, 2002 and entering, advancing or transferring into the seventh-grade in Georgia need proof of an adolescent pertussis (whooping cough) booster vaccination called “Tdap” and an adolescent meningococcal vaccination called “MCV4.” Proof of both vaccinations must be documented on the Georgia Immunization Certificate (Form 3231).

“The biggest thing we want parents to know about back to school is come to the Health Department early,” said Karen Shields, spokeswoman for the Gwinnett Health Department. “The closer it gets to the first day of school, the longer the wait can be.”

All Georgia public and private schools are affected by the law. Homeschool students are excluded.

The first day of school in Gwinnett County Public Schools is Aug. 5.

Children considered “new entrants” are subject to the new Tdap and meningococcal vaccination requirements. A new entrant is defined as any child entering any school in Georgia for the first time or entering after having been absent from a Georgia school for more than 12 months or one school year.

Shields added that if a preteen has not been vaccinated against whooping cough or meningococcal disease, officials strongly recommend getting the child vaccinated. Getting Tdap (the tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis shot) and MCV4 (meningococcal conjugate vaccine) now will not only help protect children against the ongoing threat of whooping cough and meningitis, but will also meet the school entry requirement.

Shields said if a child does not have health insurance or their health plan won’t cover these vaccines, call the local health department and ask about getting no or low cost vaccines.

For immunizations, local health departments accept cash, credit cards (except American Express), Medicaid, Peachcare, Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

For more information, visit dph.georgia.gov/vaccines-children or call 800-848-3868.

For more detailed information on services and clinic location and hours, visit www.gnrhealth.com.