Noting that preventable diseases shouldn't be a challenge for schoolchildren, Pierce County health officials are encouraging parents to get their children immunized before the start of the school year. And planning ahead can help families avoid long wait times and possible delays to meet state requirements for immunizations. The requirements "help us achieve a high level of vaccination coverage to prevent disease outbreaksGÇ¥ among students, said Nigel Turner, director of Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department's communicable disease division. "It also helps protect vulnerable people in our communities GÇô those who are too young or immune compromised to receive vaccinations.GÇ¥ The first day of classes in the Eatonville and Bethel school districts is Sept. 1 for Bethel and Sept. 7 for Eatonville. Kindergarten will start later GÇô Sept. 1 for Bethel and Sept. 12 for Eastonville. This year could be especially busy for immunizations because of the expanded state requirement that all students have two doses of the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine before school starts, officials said. Students who have already had chickenpox don't need the vaccine, but they must have verification from a doctor. Immunization requirements by student grade, information about the chickenpox vaccine requirement, and a calendar of free immunization clinics are available from the Health Department at tpchd.org/immunizations. From the 2014-15 school year to the 2015-16 school year, immunization rates increased for Pierce County kindergartners for all required immunizations (from 86.3 percent to 87.6 percent), whooping cough immunizations (from 94.7 percent to 95.2 percent), and measles immunizations (from 92.2 percent to 93.1 percent. The Pierce County rates are higher than the state average, indicating "we are doing good work to reduce the likelihood of disease outbreaks,GÇ¥ Turner said. "Parents, schools and healthcare providers are working together to increase immunization rates and raise community immunity.GÇ¥
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