Metro health officials urge parents to vaccinate kids before heading back to school

OLATHE, Kan. -- The Johnson County Health Department is an important stop on many families back to school checklists.

“The last couple weeks we’ve been pretty busy,” said Nancy Tausz, Head Services Division director for the Johnson County Health Department said.

The department offers key health immunizations that are required for many children before they can attend classes.

“Kindergarten vaccines are polio, Tdap, chickenpox, measles,” Tausz said.

But young kids aren’t the only ones who need these vaccines.

“We have adolescent vaccines. We want to make sure that’s not forgotten. Meningitis, HPV and Tdap,” Tausz said.

Health officials say infectious disease can spread quickly in schools and day cares because there tends to be a lot of people in close proximity to one another who are touching a common set of objects.

“Vaccines are very important. The vaccine-preventable diseases -- there’s no reason for your child to be exposed or possibly get a vaccine-preventable disease if we can give them a vaccine to help them not get it,” Tausz said.

Health officials here have seen it happen too often. In April, they dealt with one of the biggest measles outbreaks Kansas has seen in years.

“We had 14 cases, and it wasn’t just involving Johnson County, people in surrounding counties. People that did not vaccinate and really, there’s no need to put your child through that,” Tausz said.

Some parents however are taking a hard no on vaccines, doubting the safety and effectiveness of these shots.

“There’s a religious exemption, and there’s a medical exemption, but again we encourage parents to vaccinate their children. It protects children that aren’t able to be vaccinated that have a contraindications or medical indications that can’t or too young to be vaccinated. So you’re not only protecting your child. You’re protecting those around them.”

The Johnson County Health Department offers immunizations on a walk-in basis Monday through Friday, no appointments necessary.

The KCMO School District is also hard at work to make sure students get the needed vaccinations.

On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the district will join Children's Mercy Hospital and other agencies for "Summerfest." It's a free event where students can receive free vaccines, sports physicals and screenings. Summerfest will take place near 29th and Troost.