Jacque Malley, public health registered nurse for Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, demonstrates drawing a vaccination she would administer to a youth entering school. Parents can make appointments throughout the summer or can attend one of the walk-in clinics in early August.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Jacque Malley, public health registered nurse for Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, demonstrates drawing a vaccination she would administer to a youth entering school. Parents can make appointments throughout the summer or can attend one of the walk-in clinics in early August.

VNA calls the shots for required immunizations

If you go

What: School immunizations for students K-12

When: All summer long, by appointment

Where: Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, 745 Russell St.

Cost: Shots are free to $14

Students entering kindergarten, sixth and 10th grades might need to brave several needle pricks before they're allowed to start school in the fall.

The state requires several vaccinations to keep children from contracting certain viruses and passing them to others.

Jacque Malley, of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, said children ages 4 to 6 need to have a polio vaccination, DTaP, MMR and varicella, commonly known as chicken pox.

DTaP is a series of shots for children aged 2 months to 6 years. It vaccinates for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, or whooping cough.

MMR vaccinates against measles, mumps and rubella. Children should receive their first dose at 1 year old and the second before they enter kindergarten.

Two doses of the chicken pox vaccine should be administered along the same schedule as MMR.

Malley said that for the most part, children are fine with getting all their shots at one time.

"Really, they do quite well with it," Malley said. "They've done studies and shown that it doesn't hurt to get all four, if not more, at the same time."

Students going into sixth and 10th grades are required to get a Tdap, another version of DTaP, for additional protection against the three diseases it covers.

"They're finding that when kids reach adolescence, the DTaP shots are no longer protecting everyone against pertussis," Malley said.

The Center for Disease Control also recommends vaccinations for diseases such as human papillomavirus, Hepatitis A and meningitis.

"It's really individualized," Malley said about parents' choices of optional vaccinations. "People that read up on it and do research will have a better idea of what it can do for them and their children, and therefore make better decisions."

Cole White, director of operations at the VNA, said a "tidal wave" descends on the VNA when parents start getting immunization notices during the summer.

The VNA will host immunization clinics the first week of August.

White said there will be a walk-in clinic with three to four nurses, and they will able to immunize as many as 60 children each hour.

Currently, the VNA offers immunizations by appointment only, and costs range from free to $14.

The charge depends on income and family size, White said, to lower the barrier between working families and preventative health.

"If you're a single mom with three kids going back to school, you could be looking at $200 worth of shots," he said. "On our pay scale, that might only be $60 or less."

White said parents can take their children to a primary care doctor, but they might be charged an office visit and administrative costs. Also, with the shortage of physicians in Craig, it might take two to three weeks to get an appointment.

He said some parents hesitate to get their children vaccinated. Some worry about their children dealing with shots, while others hear rumors about side effects and vaccinations making people sick.

"With the exception of a very few, most of the vaccinations are not live viruses," White said. "They won't make you sick."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mild side effects for most vaccinations might include redness or soreness around the shot area, but vaccinations are required by state and federal governments to protect against outbreaks in schools.

"These are all preventable diseases, and that's the wonderful thing about the vaccinations," White said. "You're never 100 percent protected, but you're very unlikely to contract the virus. If everyone's vaccinated, then everyone's safe."

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