HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- As Alabama schools track the numbers of students with current vaccination records and those that still need certain shots, the Madison County Health Department was busy providing vaccinations in the weeks before school started for 2019-20.
Crystal Tolliver, nursing supervisor for the Madison County Health Department, said the department officers vaccinations year-round. And, they don't charge for the vaccinations, though residents who have some form of insurance are included to bring relevant paperwork.
Records show thousands of students across the state lack at least some required vaccinations. The Alabama Department of Public Health says vaccination records for this year will be submitted by the schools in October. That will provide an updated picture of vaccination rates. School administrators are the only ones who are able to enforce the vaccine enrollment law.
The health department's Tolliver said the students they see include different age groups that need different vaccinations, children coming from other states and countries who need shots required by Alabama and college students needing updated vaccinations for school.
For kids just starting school, it means a handful of vaccinations.
"If they’ve already gotten all of their shots and they’re 4-years-old, they’re getting ready to start Pre-K, it’s usually about four shots," Tolliver said.
Those include vaccinations for measles, mumps, and rubella, Varicella, which is the chickenpox vaccine, DTaP -- tetanus and a vaccine for polio.
Students around age 11 need a DTaP booster.
Tolliver said the run-up to school meant plenty of shots being given.
"We were really busy, over the last few weeks we gave over 500 vaccines," she said.
Alabama wants children vaccinated. The reasoning for vaccinating students is pretty straightforward.
"When we give the vaccines, we’re trying to prevent things that used to be in the United States, like polio, and when we talk about people that are unvaccinated, it puts us at risk for those diseases coming back into the United States and coming back into Alabama ... and to keep it from spreading."