Students lining up for required vaccinations
Before the beginning of every school year, hundreds of area parents bring their children to one of the Lee County Health Department’s offices to get the necessary vaccinations, and this year is no different.
In fact, the health department and Lee County School District have changed some of the immunization requirements for the upcoming academic year.
Schools are now requiring new kindergarten and first-grade students to get two doses of the chicken pox vaccine and seventh-graders to get a dose of Tdap — a combined vaccine of tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, all in one.
The new requirements are on top of the state mandated vaccines for hepatitis B, measles-mumps-rubella, varicella and polio that all students must receive by law to attend a public school.
Students also need to submit a Department of Health 680 Form that certifies that they have received the necessary vaccinations.
The Lee County Health Department currently offers free immunizations for infants and children under the age of 18.
According to Jennifer James-Mesloh, spokesperson for the local health department, more than 700 families try to get shots on the first day of school, even though the free vaccinations are available Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., and Friday, 1-3 p.m., at the Fort Myers office on 3920 Michigan Ave.
Another office in North Fort Myers at 83 Pondella Road is offering free vaccinations but requires an appointment, which is typically the same day.
“Don’t wait until the last minute, especially those in kindergarten, first grade and seventh grade, they really need to get those shots,” she said.
In the weeks before school the Lee County Health Department administers an average of 200 to 230 vaccines each day to students, and that amount jumps to as high as 700 per day as the first day of school nears, said James-Mesloh.
Monday afternoon she said both of the waiting rooms on Michigan Avenue were packed with families waiting for a vaccine.
The Michigan Avenue office is now opening at 7:30 a.m. to give families more time, but the earlier they come the better, she said.