FREE IMMUNIZATIONS

THE ISSUE: Immunizations required for school available from the Florida Department of Health in Citrus County.

OUR OPINION: It’s free; just do it.

It’s been a difficult few months, and without the standard end-of-school rituals or summer children’s activities, parents may have lost track of time. They’re more focused on “right now” than on getting their children ready for school in the Fall. But school — whatever form it will take for your child — is coming, and now is the time to make sure all required vaccinations are up to date.

Avoid the back-to-school rush by taking advantage of the no-cost immunization clinics at the Florida Department of Health in Citrus County. Clinic visits are by appointment only, so that coronavirus protective guidelines can be met. They’ll begin on Monday, July 20 and continue on weekdays through Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. One Saturday clinic is scheduled for those who cannot make it during the week. And did we say it’s free?

Immunization for avoiding preventable diseases is a major public health successes story, beginning with Edward Jenner and smallpox in the late 18th century. Immunizations are important to protect your child and others, including not just other children but also adults, for example grandparents whose immune systems may be compromised. The last thing we need in the middle of the COVID pandemic is to lose our grip on other diseases we’ve conquered through school immunization programs.

In Florida, children are required to have certain vaccinations to enter daycare, and for public or private K-12 schools. There is also a special requirement to enter seventh grade.

Florida law allows parents to file for an immunization exemption for one of two reasons. First, a medical exemption can be granted if a child's physician states in writing that the child cannot be fully immunized due to medical reasons. Second, a religious exemption may be issued “if immunizations are in conflict with the religious tenets and practices of the child's parent or guardian,” according to the Florida Department of Health, and are to be “issued by a County Health Department and based on established religious beliefs or practices only.”

Even though ensuring that vaccines are safe is a priority for the federal Centers for Disease Control right down to the vast network of health departments nationwide, there are still “vaccine-hesitant” parents. They should consult with their child’s pediatrician, the professional to whom they’ve trusted their child’s health. It’s a parental decision that will make a lifelong difference.

Be aware that if a vaccine-preventable-disease outbreak occurs at a local school, those children without proper immunization documentation may be prohibited from attending for 30 days beyond occurrence of the last positive case. No immunity? Can’t be there.

The back-to-school vaccinations are free at the Health Department. Call right away for an appointment.

SO YOU KNOW

  • Free immunization clinics will be held at the Department of Health – Citrus, 3700 W. Sovereign Path in Lecanto.
  • Immunizations are offered Monday through Friday, by appointment only, from July 20 until August 14, during regular office hours.
  • One Saturday clinic will be held on July 25 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • To make an appointment, call 352-527-0247 weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
  • Parents / guardians should bring ID, the child’s birth certificate, Social Security card and immunization record, if available.

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