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Time to get kids vaccinated for the school year
Victor Garcia, 4, gets his vaccines from Jody Grissom at Longstreet Clinic so he can enroll in school. With Victor is his mother Leticia Galindo.

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The first day of school involves more preparation than packing plenty of pencils.

State law requires new students to show that they are current on all required immunizations, said Mamie Coker, health services coordinator for the Hall County school system.

While kindergartners and sixth-graders always have to get a standard round of vaccines to protect against various illnesses, there are other immunizations that local health professionals recommend for schoolchildren.

Considering the H1N1 virus, often called the swine flu, affected summer camps across North Georgia, Coker said she believes it may be necessary for students to protect themselves against the virus when a vaccine becomes available.

Though she says she does not know if the vaccine will be mandatory for schoolchildren, Coker says schools are the most logical place to administer the vaccine, "because that’s where the children are."

"Because summer camps had issues with it and it’s not even a summertime illness, I suspect when kids get back together and congregate together we will probably see some H1N1 before the typical flu season starts in the fall," Coker said.

"Because summer camps saw cases where they were sending kids home ... I think we will see it."

Public health officials say they do not know when a vaccine for the virus will become available or whether it will be mandatory for schoolchildren.

Dave Palmer, public information officer for District 2 Public Health, said it is possible that when the vaccine is approved by the Federal Drug Administration, it may be administered in schools.

"We will have to determine how to administer the vaccine once it is made and is made available to us," Palmer said. "That is one thought on a national level that was discussed to go into the schools and vaccinate in the schools, but I’m not sure how we’ll handle that yet until we have the vaccine."

There are other vaccines that are currently available, but are not required, that one local health professional still suggests for students.

Dr. Stephen Klacik, a pediatrician with The Longstreet Clinic, recommends that parents vaccinate their children for Hepatitis A.

"Hall County, the last time I checked, was a relatively high-risk area for Hepatitis A, so it’s recommended by the state health department," Klacik said.

Klacik also recommends that 11-year-old girls receive Gardasil, the vaccine that protects against certain strands of the human papillomavirus that have been known to cause cervical cancer.

"It prevents cancer," Klacik said. "No other vaccine has ever prevented cancer."

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