There's one crucial school item that won't fit in your child's backpack

By Sharon Engelman RN, BSN, clinical nurse manager at Jackson County Health Department

While driving across the country on vacation this summer I saw a billboard with the message, “Vaccine Preventable Diseases are Just a Plane Ride Away.” As a public health nurse I was excited to see the billboard, but at the same time I wondered if the message shouldn’t be, “Vaccine Preventable Diseases Are in OUR Community”.

With the recent outbreak of measles in Kansas and Missouri, it is more important than ever that we get the message out to families about the importance of immunizing their children. Parents need to understand that diseases, such as measles, that once killed 400 – 500 people each year in the United States have not been eradicated worldwide, and in a world where people can travel across the globe in a day, the threat to our children is real and ever-present.

With the start of the school year right around the corner, I encourage you to spend a minute talking with a child that is preparing to enter Kindergarten. You can almost feel their excitement as they get ready to enter the world of the “big kids”. Excitement and wonder builds as the first day of school gets closer, bringing with it the excitement of picking out school supplies and the thrill of riding the school bus for the first time.

Yet for many children, the excitement of that first day of school will be tarnished forever as they are turned away from school for not being up-to-date on their immunizations.

Every year, without fail, health departments across the state watch as their lobbies fill up with families that did not know their child needed immunizations to start school, despite the repeated school notices and public service announcements from local and state health departments. Many parents do not fully grasp the importance of having their child immunized before the start of the school year and the hard-and-fast school regulations that prevents students from attending classes until they have been vaccinated.

It is up to all of us in the medical field to work with families to ensure that their children are up-to-date on their immunizations before the first day of school. At every office and/or clinic visit, families need to be educated on the importance of immunizations and the school regulations regarding them, and immunization records need to be reviewed and vaccines administered when appropriate.

Parents and health care providers alike want what is best for the children in our community. To have our children grow up healthy, to lead happy and productive lives. Immunizations allow our children the opportunity to do just that. Help us keep all of our children healthy. Immunize today!

Contact your local health department for immunization clinic dates and times.



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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at



About Bridget's Blog

Bridget McCandless

Bridget McCandless, MD, MBA, FACP, HCF President/CEO

Bridget McCandless is the President/CEO of the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City and is a Board Certified Internal Medicine Specialist with an interest in chronic disease management and poverty medicine. She shares her thoughts and perspectives on health and policy issues that impact the health of the community as a whole.

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