August is National Immunization Awareness Month, an event that coincides with the kick off of a new school year in Texas, and many parents are scrambling to get their students immunized.

“We encourage parents to not wait until their last day to get shots, because when they do, they're going to have a wait – the more quickly they get in, the better,” said Cherokee County Public Health Department immunization branch manager Rhonda Simon.

Melisa Matlock, patient service representative for The Children's Clinic of Rusk agreed. “We take walk-ins, but we encourage parents to make appointments, because we are a primary care clinic, and it's always helpful to call ahead, and we do offer same-day appointments.”

Both organizations – the county public health office is located at 803 College Ave. in Jacksonville, while the Children's Clinic is on U.S. Highway 69 in Rusk – provide immunizations required by the state “as a statewide control measure for communicable disease,” according to the Texas Administrative Code.

Immunizations for school-age youth include: diptheria/tetanus/pertussis; polio; measles,mumps and Rubella (MMR); Hepatitis B; Varicella; meningococcal (MCV4) and Hepatitis A. A chart, “Texas Minimum State Vaccine Requirements for Students Grades K-12” provides a timeline when the vaccines are administered.

While required, the state does allow one-year medical exemptions, statements provided by a child's physician that “the vaccine(s) required would be medically harmful or injurious to the health and well-being of the child or household member, and (that) parents/guardians to choose an exemption from immunization requirements for reasons of conscience, including a religious belief,” according to the Texas Health and Human Services website notes.

The Texas Vaccines for Children program provides no-cost vaccines for newborn children to those age 18 who meet eligibility requirements. However, and administration fee is assessed, the women noted.

The Public Health Department's fees are $10 for a single shot or $15 for two or more shots. Children receiving Medicaid or CHIP are not charged, and the program is strictly walk-in, Simon said.

At the Rusk clinic, immunizations are include with a Well Child checkup; parents without insurance are eligible for a discount, Mattlock said.

Additionally, the clinic offers physicals to students who play sports or who are in band or cheer, she noted.

Families are encouraged to bring shot records so that the staff knows what vaccines are needed.

“That's very important – we have to have their records to give them shots,” Simon said, adding that a state vaccine registry program also has information available if families don't have them readily available.

Both also said these documents help fill in holes of information.

“Our requirements in Texas might not be the same as the state that a family is moving from, so those records are necessary,” Matlock said.

While the Rusk site works primarily with youths ages 18 and younger, the Public Health Department is able to meet immunization needs of college-age adults.

“We have something called the Adult Safety Net Program, which is specific for adults who have no kind of insurance,” Simon said, adding that often, “what we generally see (is young adults) needing that dose of meningitis ACWY, or for certain schools – depending on the program, like nursing – who want to want to make sure (their students) have things like MMR vaccines,” she said.

Like the parents of school age children, college-age students – and even adult needing immunizations for their work – are advised to bring their shot records to the Jacksonville clinic, Simon said.

Cherokee County Public Health Department, www.cctxphd.org, is located at 803 College Ave. in Jacksonville, and operates Monday through Thursday, 8 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. Contact them at 903-586-6191, Ext. 11 or 12.

Rusk Children's Clinic, 1375 Dickinson Dr., is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact

903-683-1300 or visit www.childrenscliniclufkin.com to learn more.

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