The rush is coming.
The beginning of school is near and that means more children will be arriving at the Columbus Health Department to get vaccinations.
"We tell parents not to wait -- get them now," said Colethia Moore, the department's child health nurse manager.
Georgia does not allow any child to be admitted to or attend any school or facility in the state unless the child first has submitted a certificate of immunization.
However, medical and religious exemptions are available.
Immunization is required for diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, polio, measles, rubella, mumps, haemophilus influenza type B, hepatitis B, varicella, pneumococcal and hepatitis A.
As for parents who are nervous about vaccinations, West Central Health Director Dr. Beverley Townsend said there is no reason they should be alarmed.
"They should be afraid of their children not having the vaccination," Townsend said.
Townsend said it is important for a person to get shots, not just for their safety, but for the safety of others around them.
She called the vaccines safe and effective.
Talking about side effects, Moore said there are usually none except possibly some redness, swelling and soreness in the site of the injection, which she says is minimal when compared to the worst-case scenario.
"That's better than coming down with a disease. That is a greater risk," Moore said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in its literature that it is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it.
According to the CDC, a person's immune system recognizes germs known as antigens and produce proteins called antibodies to fight them,
The first time a child is infected with a specific antigen such as the measles virus, the system produces antibodies to fight it. Usually the immune system can't work fast enough and the child gets sick. However, the immune system remembers the antigen and if it ever enters again, the immune system can produce antibodies quickly to keep it from causing the disease a second time. That is immunity.
Vaccines contain the same antigens that cause diseases. For example, the measles vaccine contains measles virus. But the antigens in vaccines are either killed or weakened to the point that they don't cause disease. However, they are strong enough to make the immune system produce antibodies that lead to immunity. This way the child gets protection without having to get sick.
Some vaccine-preventable diseases can result in prolonged disabilities and can take a financial toll because of medical bills and time lost at work.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says today's vaccines are safer than any in history. Before a vaccine is licensed, it is studied in thousands of people and in combination with other vaccines. After licensing, the federal government continues to monitor the safety of a vaccine.
On its website, the CDC gives an example of why vaccines are important. It says that in 1974, Japan had a successful whooping cough vaccination program with nearly 80 percent of children vaccinated. That year, only 393 cases were reported, with no deaths. Rumors began to spread the vaccine was no longer needed and that it was not safe, and by 1976 only 10 percent of infants were getting vaccinated. In 1979, Japan suffered a major whooping cough epidemic with more than 13,000 cases and 41 deaths.
Sheila Mayfield, the clinical nursing director for the Columbus Heath Department, most children need to be distracted while getting a shot.
"Parents should bring a toy with the child," Mayfield said.
She said making children feel comfortable is a reason the clinic is colorful and workers do not wear white medical outfits.
Both Moore and Mayfield said it is important for students going away to college to get vaccinations and they should check what is required at their school.
The clinic, at the Columbus Health Department at 2100 Comer Avenue, is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and no appointment is necessary.
For information, call 706-321-6230 or 706-321-6300 or visit www.columbushealth.com.