As parents begin to think about what school supplies their children will need, they should also think about the last time their children were immunized, a necessary component in getting ready for back-to-school.

This year, the Pima County Health Department is working collectively with five of Tucson's school districts -- Flowing Wells, Marana, Sunnyside, Amphitheater and Tucson -- to immunize the children of Pima County at the Back-to-School Immunization Clinic held at the Flowing Wells High School cafeteria, 3725 N. Flowing Wells Road.

"We're offering it because it's required by all school districts in Tucson," said Jackie Lopez, family resources liaison for Flowing Wells.

The clinic, free for children up to age 18, will provide all necessary and some optional immunizations, including: diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP) for children under the age of seven, hepatitis B, hepatitis A for ages two to five, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), polio, haemopphilus influenzae type B (HIB), varicella (Chicken Pox) and prevnar for all ages.

Eileen Smith, nurse supervisor for Flowing Wells, said even though the illnesses the immunizations prevent aren't heard about much anymore, vaccinations are still just as important.

"We don't hear about it because we immunize our children," she said.

However, Marilyn Schubert, nurse supervisor for Amphi, said a recent outbreak of pertussis -- more commonly known as whooping cough -- was proof positive about the importance of keeping childrens' immunizations records up to date.

Schubert said the vaccine will only work if children get it before the age of seven. But older children who had not gotten the vaccine or who had gotten it but the protection from the vaccine had wained, were getting the illness and passing it on to younger children.

"The big kids who can't get the shots anymore are spreading it to little kids," she said. "And it's really serious, especially for little kids. The littler they are, the more serious it is."

If children get the illness, it can be treated with antibiotics, she said.

The clinic will be held Aug. 10 from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., Aug. 11 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Aug. 13 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian and must have shot records with them to be immunized.

All school districts in Pima County require their students to be immunized, however, exceptions are made in certain circumstance.

"Parents have the option to sign an exemption providing they know the ramifications of not having their child immunized," Smith said.

"Some people obviously have religious preferences, some children are allergic to the vaccine, or they just choose not to do it," she continued.

Public health nurses from the Pima County Health Department will administer the vaccinations with help of emergency medical technicians from Northwest Fire District. Several other volunteers will also be on hand to help with paperwork, security, crowd control and entertainment, including clowns, balloon sculpting and music.

"Everybody's been really wonderful," Lopez said.

Upon arriving, children and parents will check in and then be interviewed by a medical volunteer who will determine the types of shots each child needs. The waiting period to receive shots is usually not very long, Lopez said.

"I think the longest waiting period last year was about 40 minutes," Lopez said. "For as many kids as we did, that's pretty good."

The clinic saw about 1,800 children last year, and Lopez expects roughly the same amount this year.

"We'll have everything a bit more organized this year," she said.

To become a volunteer or to donate other items like lunches, snacks, bottled water, Band-Aids and small gifts for children, call Jackie Lopez at 690-5621.

For more information about immunizations, contact your school health office, your family doctor or clinic or the Pima County Health Department at 740-3755.

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