It may be hard to believe, but the back-to-school season has once again arrived.

When preparing for a new school year we often first think of pencils, notebooks and other classroom supplies. However, you also need to be sure your child has their most important supply — protection against vaccine-preventable diseases.

This month, we celebrate National Immunization Awareness Month, which is a time for us to highlight the importance of vaccination at all ages. Vaccines are the best way for parents to protect their children from harmful diseases like measles, whopping cough, chickenpox and some cancers. Sometimes, these diseases can be potentially life-threatening.

If you have a baby starting daycare, a toddler headed to preschool or a child going back to school or college, I’d encourage you to check their vaccination records. It’s easy for illnesses to pass from one child to another when they’re in school. They may not properly wash their hands or forget to cover their coughs and sneezes.

While our vaccination rates in Texas are on par with the national average, there’s always room for improvement. Specifically, with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

This virus is common in men and women and can lead to some cancers. Each year, about 14 million people, including teens, are infected. Chances are your child will eventually encounter it. The HPV vaccine can prevent most cancers from occurring.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all children who are 11 and 12 years old get two shots of HPV vaccine six months apart. Adolescents who receive their two shots less than five months apart will require a third dose. The vaccine is recommended through age 26.

Teen boys and girls who did not start or finish the HPV vaccine series when they were younger should get it now. Parents should check with their child’s doctor, school or local health department to learn about vaccine requirements.

Keeping track of your family’s vaccination records is made easier with ImmTrac2. Have you heard of it? It’s a free, confidential and secure electronic way to store your family members’ vaccination records. For more information, email tguzman@gchd.org or rcruz@gchd.org or call 409-938-2323 or 409-938-2233.

Our immunization clinic at the Galveston County Health District offers the HPV vaccine and other vaccines required for school enrollment, including the meningitis vaccine and others such as the influenza vaccine. We accept Children’s Medicaid, Blue Cross Blue Shield, cash, check, credit and debit. Discounts are available for eligible patients.

No need for an appointment, just walk on in. The clinic is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays with hours extended until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays at 9850-B Emmett F. Lowry Expressway, Suite B-104, in Texas City. For information, visit www.gchd.org/imm or call 409-949-3459.

Happy back-to-school season.

Eileen Dawley is the chief nursing officer for the Galveston County Health District.

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