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A LESSON IN SHOTS FOR TEENS, TOTS

With the new school year just days away, parents need to be aware of health requirements for students. Here are the basics:

Whether your child is entering school for the first time or was previously enrolled in kindergarten through sixth grade, the state requires the following immunizations; after each is the number of shots required:

- MMR (measles/mumps/rubella): 2

- DTP (diphtheria/tetanus pertussis): 5

- Polio: 4

- Hepatitis B series: 2-3

- Chickenpox: 1 (if he or she has never had the disease)

The state also requires all seventh-graders to be up-to-date on immunizations to be allowed in school.

A certificate from the Florida Department of Health (form DH-680-A-2) must be filed at your child's school, showing the dates when the shots were administered.

Students entering grades 7 through 12 must have those immunizations on their record, plus a diphtheria booster.

The two largest school systems in the Tampa Bay area, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, are providing free immunizations.

Hillsborough County has back-to-school health fairs, at which students in all grades can get free immunizations and physicals, though not for interscholastic sports.

All Hillsborough County Health Department offices also are providing free immunizations. Students must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian and must bring immunization records.

According to Sandra Gallogly, supervisor of school health services for Hillsborough, if a student is transferring from one county to another, it is a good idea to hand-carry immunization data and records of physicals.

Similarly, students registering in Florida for the first time will need to show their immunization and physical histories.

Pinellas County is also providing free back-to-school immunizations at all Health Department offices.

Vaccines not required but worth discussing with your child's pediatrician are aimed at preventing meningitis and human papillomavirus, or HPV, which causes cervical cancer.

"Meningitis and HPV are killers," said Gallogly.

Those vaccines will be available at the health fairs in both counties.

Last spring, Citrus County gave about 600 sixth-graders a combination tetanus/pertussis booster shot, required before they enter seventh grade. At each middle school's open house this month, these shots will be available.

Freelance writer Randolph Fillmore lives in Tampa.

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