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igher than normal number of children face possible exclusion from school or child care facilities this month because they have not met expanded immunization requirements, according to public health officials at the Crook County Health Department.
   The final deadline for updating a child's immunization record is February 21, says Melissa McCoy, RN, Immunization Coordinator. On that morning, children who are not current on the required immunizations will be sent home from their school or childcare center until proof of adequate immunization is provided.
   "Last year 40 exclusion orders were issued and 25 children were excluded from schools and children's facilities," McCoy says. "We are expecting significantly higher numbers this year due to the new requirements for seventh graders and expanded requirements for children in kindergarten and day care. There were 193 exclusion orders mailed to parents on February 2."
   Students in seventh grade must have a second dose of measles vaccine, either a shot for chickenpox or history of having the disease and they must be up to date on their Hepatitis B vaccine series. Children in kindergarten and children's facilities are now required to meet the chickenpox requirement also.
   "We believe that the new requirements will help protect Crook County children from these terrible serious diseases and the serious complications they cause," said McCoy. "The two recently diagnosed cases of measles in Washington County serve as a solemn reminder that these diseases have not disappeared. We cannot afford to be complacent about making sure all of our children are protected against vaccine preventable diseases."
   Melissa McCoy emphasized that it is critical for children to receive recommended immunizations, particularly because many of these diseases, including chickenpox, spread easily through schools and child care centers.
   "Chickenpox is incorrectly thought of by many people as a `routine' disease of childhood, McCoy noted. "However, chickenpox infection causes almost 10,000 hospitalizations and up to 100 deaths annually in the United States. The vaccine is safe and effective and can prevent not only the serious complications of chickenpox, but the needless suffering of millions of otherwise healthy children."
   Parents seeking immunizations for their children should contact their private provider or county health department. The Crook County Health Department will be doing immunizations on the following days:
   Feb. 12 and 20
   8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
   and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.,
   on a walk in basis
   If these dates are not convenient, parents can call the Health Department at 447-5165 to set up an appointment date and time.
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