The Oklahoma Eagle Newspaper

 

The Tulsa Health Department recommends that routine vaccination, especially of infants, should continue. This ensures that our communities remain free of vaccine preventable diseases and that individuals are as healthy as possible. If routine vaccination is postponed, public health officials fear the community could be faced not only with a COVID-19 pandemic but an outbreak of vaccine preventable diseases, like measles. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has provided additional guidance on immunizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While we are still focusing on COVID-19 prevention, we don’t want to forget that routine childhood immunizations protect against numerous other vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Ellen Niemitalo, immunizations manager.

The Tulsa Health Department has seen a decrease in the number of clients that were seen this year for immunizations compared to last year.

“We have seen only 21% of the clients seen in April-June 2019 and have administered 24% of the vaccines that were given in the same timeframe,” added Niemitalo.  “Parental concerns about potentially exposing their children to COVID-19 during well child visits might contribute to the declines observed. Our fear is that with the identified declines in routine pediatric vaccine ordering and doses administered might indicate that U.S. children and their communities face increased risks for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.”

Clients seeking immunization services at the Central Regional Health Center and James O. Goodwin Health Center are required to call 918-582-9355 to make an appointment. Measures have been temporarily modified to limit potential exposure for clients and staff while practice social distancing. Health officials ask clients not to enter the building if sick or have a temperature above 100.4. Triage stations are set up at each location.

THD offers several convenient online features to help clients:

  1. Online immunizations records requests: Parents and legal guardians can request immunization records electronically at www.tulsa-health.org/shotrecords. Requests will be processed within 5 business days.
  2. Online vital records requests: Parents and legal guardians can request vital records electronically at www.tulsa-health.org/birth-death-records. Requests will be processed within 2 business days.

“We strongly encourage not to delay routine vaccines for your children and family during the pandemic,” added Niemitalo.  “Healthcare providers can follow local and CDC guidance to keep you safe if you need in-person care.”

THD provides immunizations according to the Oklahoma school requirements, CDC recommendations and the childhood and adolescent immunization schedule. There are no new immunization requirements for the 2020-2021 school year.

The demand for vaccines turns into a rush before school starts because of the booster shots which are due after a child turns 4, and required before children enter kindergarten. Most children entering kindergarten are required to receive a second dose of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella vaccine), a fourth dose of polio vaccine, and a fifth does of DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccines). A second dose of varicella is recommended at four years of age.

Children transferring into Oklahoma schools from other states may need the hepatitis A vaccine. This vaccine is not required for all states; however, two doses of hepatitis A vaccine are required for all Oklahoma students in grades kindergarten through twelve. Parents are advised to bring their child’s most recent vaccination record.

Students entering the 7th grade must receive a Tdap booster. Teens in the 8th through 12th grades must also have one dose of Tdap if they have not received it already.  Tdap protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).  Meningitis and HPV vaccines are also recommended for adolescents at 11 years of age. First-time college enrollees who will reside on campus are required to receive the meningitis vaccine.

Infants, children and adolescents under 18 years of age must be accompanied by their parent or guardian and bring a copy of their current immunizations record to receive immunizations.

THD accepts the following health insurance: Medicaid, SoonerCare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Community Care, Health Choice, Cigna, and Medicare.  It is recommended to check with the insurance company to verify coverage for requested vaccines.  Clients with private insurance not listed may pay for vaccines.

Children through age 18 years are eligible to receive vaccines at no charge through the Vaccine for Children program if any of the following apply: they are uninsured, Native American Indian, Native Alaskan, or their insurance policy does not cover vaccines.

For more information via phone or web, please call 918-582-9355 or visit www.tulsa-health.org.