Back to school plans should include vaccinations

Amanda Mayle

For many, 2020 constituted a trying year of remote working and learning, one forced on the workforce and students because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly 18 months later, most people are back in their regular work spaces and most children completed the school year in person. Things are getting back to normal.

While it might feel as though we’re in the celebration phase, we’re actually in the final push before the end of a long race. It’s the hardest part — when you’re tired, but also know you can push through and finish strong.

Variants of the COVID-19 virus, most notably the Delta variant, persist in Mesa County. We must continue efforts to slow the spread of this disease so illness levels remain manageable for our health care system.

As we enter the 2021-2022 school year, we can all agree we don’t want a repeat of 2020. 

To ensure students stay in the classroom and their parents and guardians keep working with limited distractions, we have to keep pushing forward and protecting our kids as best we can.

  Colorado law requires all students attending schools and licensed childcare facilities to be vaccinated against certain diseases unless an exemption is filed. 

Children entering child care are required to get the following vaccines: hepatitis B; diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTap); haemophilus influenza type b (Hib); inactivated poliovirus (IPV); pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13) or polysaccharide (PPSV23); measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); and varicella (chickenpox).

Children entering school in kindergarten through 12th grade are required to get the following vaccines: hepatitis B; diphtheria, tetanus and  pertussis (DTap); inactivated poliovirus (IPV); measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); varicella (chickenpox); and tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap).

Students age 4 through 6 are required to get their final doses of DTaP, IPV, MMR and varicella prior to kindergarten entry. 

Students are required to have Tdap prior to entry into sixth grade, and one dose of Tdap is required for sixth through 12th grades.

 The Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) Clinic, located at 510 29 1/2 Road in Grand Junction administers all required vaccines as well as optional COVID-19 vaccines for students age 12 to 17.

 If you aren’t sure which immunizations your child needs, have questions about the safety or effectiveness of vaccines or are behind on required vaccinations, MCPH staff can help. 

 To make an appointment to talk about back to school vaccines, call 248-6900. Cost is not a barrier. The MCPH clinic serves all residents regardless of ability to pay. You also can contact your local health care provider for vaccination guidance.

 If you don’t want your child to be vaccinated with the required vaccines, parents and guardians must fill out a non-medical exemption form (immunization exemptions for personal beliefs or religious reasons). The COVID-19 vaccine is not required. No exemption is needed. 

 Exemption forms must be submitted every year in accordance with state law. Those with a medical exemption need submit an exemption form only once. Medical and non-medical exemption forms are available on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment website. MCPH staff members can’t sign non-medical exemption forms. 

 Immunizations protect you and our community. Certain populations — including very young children and those with underlying medical conditions — can’t receive immunizations. Consequently, it’s important the people around them are immunized.