Free immunizations: Back to School event

NASHUA — In an effort to make the annual Nashua Goes Back to School event truly a one-stop shop, officials with the city’s Division of Public Health & Community Services are planning to offer required back to school immunizations for free.

“The motivation for including immunizations in the back to school event is to make it as convenient as possible for our families to help get their students ready for school,” Nashua School District spokeswoman Stacy Hynes said. “I think it’s great that they’re being included. We’re grateful for what the Division of Public Health is doing, supporting our students.”

Hynes added, “One stop shopping — there’s nothing better.”

Public outreach workers and health nurses driving the Division’s Mobile Outreach Van will come equipped with all five vaccines that students are required to have before going back to school. These vaccines include tetanus, hepatitis B, polio, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), and varicella. In addition, they will be bringing recommended vaccines for hepatitis A, meningitis, HPV and pneumonia.

Those who are looking to receive a vaccination for their child must have a copy of his or her vaccination records.

School District Head Nurse Jeanamarie Carrasco said the district follows state vaccination guidelines. For example, students going into seventh grade must get a Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (TDAP) vaccination.

If it weren’t for this event and the help of city officials, some families could have faced barriers for obtaining shots.

“For the health department to put this on for the kids is huge, and it’s free. I think as parents, we want to do everything possible to make our kids healthy and protect them from preventable diseases. The health department is so accommodating. They never deny a child.”

“Vaccinations protect children from serious illness and complications. It’s just so important and the opportunities for receiving vaccines are there,” Carrasco added. “We want our kids to be happy and healthy at the start of the school year. We are grateful for the health department.”

Nashua Division of Public Health & Community Services Chief Public Health Nurse Kim Bernard said the department is there to make sure that families don’t fall through the cracks.

“Our job as the health department is being a safety net. We want to make sure that all children are immunized. Immunizations are so important to protect our community from infectious disease,” Bernard said.

“Vaccines are safe and effective at preventing serious disease. It’s important to get vaccinated on time and we can answer any questions about scheduling because it can get confusing,” she added.

Aside from vaccines, the outreach workers and nurses will also be offering lead testing during the back to school event.

“Your child should be tested for lead at 1 and 2, but even children that are older than that, who may have fallen through the cracks, can get their lead levels tested,” Bernard said. “This is also really important. Lead is not a good thing to have in your body.”

Bernard said lead can cause neurological and behavioral issues.

“We want to make sure that parents are educated on lead testing,” Bernard said.

According to Bernard, children can get lead in their system through jewelry, spices imported from other countries, old toys, makeup and if they live in homes that were built before 1978.

During the back to school event, students who are tested for lead will receive a finger prick for a capillary read, which will give the result immediately.

The division has been offering free vaccinations at the back to school Event for a number of years now. Immunization Nurse Coordinator Theresa Calope said in years past, they have utilized the Mobile Outreach Van and booths in the library.

Calope said she believes the van catches more attention. In addition, Calope said August is National Immunization Awareness Month, making the back to school event the perfect way to celebrate.

“While many serious diseases are no longer common in the United States, these diseases still exist and can spread when people aren’t vaccinated,” Calope said. “Following the recommendation of the immunization schedules will help protect them against those preventable diseases, and that’s our main goal. We really need to protect the public.”

“Our function here at the health department is to prevent disease and to protect and promote the health of the individuals in our community, so this is another way that we can do some outreach,” Bernard added. “It’s always been a successful event, so we feel that we can touch a number of families. We also want to bring awareness that the health department is here for folks.”

The Mobile Outreach Van will be parked outside the Nashua Public Library during Nashua Goes Back to School, which will take place from 5-6:30 p.m. Aug. 22.

Grace Pecci may be reached at 594-1243, or at gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.