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Dept. of Health: Back to school immunizations still required for online learners

The Florida Department of Health says they've seen a huge decrease in the number of students getting updated vaccines.

BARTOW, Fla. — Preparing for school looks a bit different this year, with electronic devices added to the school supply list for some and masks and hand sanitizers for others.

The classroom will also look different this year. For some, it may be the kitchen table. For others, it's their usual classroom except desks are six feet apart.

Required for all students, whether they're learning in-person or online is an updated roster of immunizations. Students in Florida are required to have the following vaccines:

  • Four or five doses of DTaP
  • Four or five doses of IPV
  • Two doses of MMR
  • Three doses of Hep B
  • One Tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap)
  • Two doses of Varicella (kindergarten effective with 2008–2009 school year, then an additional grade is added each year thereafter). Varicella vaccine is not required if there is a history of varicella disease documented by the health care provider.

It turns out, a lot of parents may have either forgotten to update their student's vaccinations with the stress of dealing with the coronavirus or may have gotten bad information about this year's vaccine requirements.

"Whether you're [attending] virtual school or in person, you're required to get all the immunizations. We've heard rumors that if students are doing virtual school, they don't have to get the same immunizations done, that's just not the case," said Doug Harvey, the Clinic Division Director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County.

He says that lines usually stretch out the door around this time with families waiting to get shots before heading back to class, but with this year's new appointment-only system, the department of health is not seeing the same demand, "Last year at this time, during our back to school timeframe, we've seen probably 50 percent of the number of clients we typically see."

Harvey stresses the importance of staying up to date, especially in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. "These diseases are still out there and they still could be very devastating should they spread throughout the community, so in order to avoid that on top of the coronavirus, we want to make sure everyone gets their required vaccinations," said Harvey.

Parents can call their local department of health location to make an appointment for childhood immunizations by visiting the Florida Department of Health's website. Same-day appointments are available. This year, because of the COVID-19, the form that schools require as proof of immunizations will be free, instead of the usual $10 fee.

You can find your county's department of health locations here:

Citrus

Hardee

Hernando

Highlands

Hillsborough

Manatee

Pasco

Pinellas

Polk

Sarasota

RELATED: Teachers rush to prepare after multiple changes to back-to-school plan

RELATED: MOSI creates learning hub, help center for students taking online classes

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